Saturday, May 15, 2021

World hockey challenges industry on waterless turf

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Hockey Paper staff
Latest breaking news, previews and match reports written by Hockey Paper staff

World hockey’s vision on playing on pitches without the need to water remains a priority despite the pandemic.

In 2018, the FIH challenged the synthetic turf industry to develop surfaces that play the way the sport wants without using watering.

It followed the FIH Congress, where it was confirmed that water-based surfaces will be replaced for the Paris 2024 Olympics, if not earlier.

For the upcoming Tokyo Games, the Polytan pitches will require two-thirds less water than surfaces used at previous Olympics. By Los Angeles 2028, it is likely that Games organisers will be seeking one of the most sustainable and waste-free Games yet.

Last year, the FIH joined the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) as an associate member, aiming to speed up development of more sustainable and durable surfaces in the sport.

ESTC director general Stefan Diderich told THP: “Recognising water is precious, and it is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the world, the FIH announced at their Congress in 2018 that they wished to move from hosting elite level hockey competitions exclusively on wet turf.

“ESTC and its members the industry are investigating to see if they can achieve these objectives. The impact of the pandemic has slowed this work, but the FIH’s commitment to amend its regulations to remove the need to water fields, but still retain good hockey performance, creates opportunities for the industry to work with the hockey and create opportunities for the sport to develop and become accessible to all globally.”

ESTC say that companies are innovating to develop more sustainable ways of watering fields. Using technology that allows fields to be watered from beneath is now becoming more available and fields using this concept have been built in Europe.

This technology offers the major advantages of allowing water capture and recycling, reducing consumption and ensuring a constant and even distribution of water across the field and throughout a game.

“We have to go away from the water system,” FIH chief Thierry Weil said at the 2018 Congress. “We can’t be seen to be continually wasting water while maybe next door people have not enough water to drink.

“It’s an important decision and it’s on us to work with the suppliers to bring a new product.

“We’re not talking about getting rid of it but getting a replacement and allowing the players getting the same quality of play we see today and hopefully it will be much cheaper.”

Jon Wyatt, FIH’s sport and development Director, said that by joining the ESTC, the sport will be able to strengthen its relationships with the companies producing the surfaces that hockey needs.

“It will also help to ensure that FIH is part of the debate as questions around sustainability, maximising opportunities and returns on investment and environmental considerations become ever more important,” he said.

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