While Europe's best teams will compete in a few days on the field, another competition took place under their feet some time earlier! That of the choice of the turf, a central and decisive component of the stadium, for sporting reasons of course, as well as economic and environmental reasons.
While the European Football Championship is kicking off in France, the stadiums hosting the games were revamped ahead of the competition. And among their new attributes, one of them is of paramount importance: the turf.
Although it was long natural, and then synthetic, the turf of choice for the Euro 2016 is a hybrid turf: it combines natural turf with a synthetic reinforcement.
The inventor of this type of turf, the Belgo-Dutch company Desso - recently acquired by French flooring multinational Tarkett - has been able to interest over 600 pitches worldwide in its Desso GrassMaster® process since the early 1990s: the process involves injecting millions of synthetic fibres (polyethylene and polypropylene) into a pitch made from 100% natural turf in order to strengthen its stability, durability and improve drainage. The roots of the natural turf grow around the synthetic fibres and anchor the turf in order to obtain a solid construction providing better drainage and improved playing comfort. The company will be providing the turf for the Stade de France stadium which will be hosting the finals of the Euro 2016.
However, French start-up NaturalGrass seems to be gaining ground with its Air Fibr technology intended for high-level football and rugby pitches: 100% natural turf is planted on ground comprised of a mix of fine sand, synthetic micro-fibres and cork. The aim is to provide optimal playing comfort on turf that remains impermeable.
Regardless, these hybrid turfs have many benefits: no more games cancelled due to bad weather, more resistance to turf being pulled out, good energy restitution, good cushioning, and most importantly, fewer players taken-out by an injury.
And it should, we hope, be a real asset to ensure a "beautiful game".
May the best win!
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