The FIH is working towards specifying a water-free synthetic turf (hockey astroturf) for top level hockey and a multi-sport turf for some other levels. Multi-sport turf facilitates access to community or shared facilities at a reasonable cost. They are included in the list of approved turfs on our website. Developing a water-free turf for top level hockey is an important project because it recognises environmental concerns about water usage. However, it is technically a very challenging project. We are in regular contact with the turf industry and specialist advisers including our accredited laboratories and we are seeking the views of players in various ways. Specific research has also been commissioned to enable us to specify a water-free turf which performs in much the same way as current water-based turf. As a result of this research, we now know more about the interaction of the ball and various turf types. However, we are still looking into turf abrasion and friction.
It is important that we undertake research into the characteristics of current water-based turfs because it concerns player safety and comfort for example when falling or sliding on turf. We commissioned research at a university department in 2009/2010 which indicated ways in which the ball interacts with turf. A test outline was developed but our accredited laboratories found that it did not differentiate turf types sufficiently and that results could not be reliably replicated. The test is therefore currently being refined but if it continues to be unreliable we may have to follow up another observation from the university research mentioned above.
These comments show that we are getting closer to a draft specification for a water-free turf but that the research and associated tests are complex. It will therefore still take some time to coordinate the research, agree a specification and then for the industry to develop products which meet the specification. It will probably be a year or two before new turfs are widely available. In the interim and in relation to top level hockey, water-based pitches will continue to be specified.
Even when new turfs are available, there is no intention of not continuing to allow top events to be played on existing water-based pitches which meet the FIH performance specifications. Organisations considering the installation of new pitches or refurbishment of existing pitches can therefore use current products with confidence. Pitches installed in the near future using these turfs will continue to provide good facilities for hockey. Newly installed pitches using current turfs are not compromised by and do not contradict the longer term aims being pursued by the FIH.