Activity area

7.1 Playing surfaces

7.2 Pitch dimensions, layout and boundaries

7.1 Playing surfaces 7.1.1 History

Informal sport has been played on grass fields, city squares or open ground for hundreds of years but it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that sports became organized and conditions were defined under which the sport could be played fairly. These early, rather loose, conditions later became rules and eventually the laws of sport were born. A notable exception is tennis which had its origins as an indoor sport and only later took to the outdoors. The surface to be played upon was often specified in these rules, as it was recognized that the nature of a game differed when the surface it was played upon changed.

The established rule of ball sports being played on natural surfaces was unchallenged until 1966 when the Houston Astrodome opened. This was the first completely covered stadium in the world and was designed, using the best technology at the time, with a transparent roof and natural turf playing surface. Unfortunately, the grass did not grow below the transparent roof for a number of reasons, one of which was that the steel structure holding up the solid roof was substantial and hindered the natural light from penetrating to the playing surface. No transparent or translucent roof has yet permitted the growth of natural turf suitable for playing ball sports.

In order to avoid this show case stadium turning into a disaster, a manufactured synthetic grass was woven using green plastic and laid over the existing ground. This product was called 'Astroturf' after its host venue, the 'Astrodome' and variants of this original synthetic grass have covered many other sports surfaces around the world.

Synthetic sports surfaces have since been developed into more sophisticated constructions, all with the enormous advantage to a stadium manager that he can hold different events on the same playing surface, one after the other. Although players and team coaches tended to prefer a natural grass surface for its playability, artificial surfaces were approved for American football and spread quickly through the USA. They are now officially accepted by FIFA for soccer matches and are beginning to be installed by clubs around the world, though they have not yet been accepted by national federations for major matches.

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