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Question Number: 32677

Law 1- The Field 8/31/2018

RE: Adult

John of Ireland , Ireland Ireland asks...

Hi, i just reffed a game on a field that had some AstroTurf on it, one strip in one box (penalty spot) and the goal area and penalty spot in the other box. Is that permitted? I know that the laws allow for a hybrid system if the competition allows for it, but i thought hybrid was a mix together all over the pitch.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi John,
FIFA would not want a field laid out with different material. I recall the woman professional leagues complaining their knees were at risk on astro turf & wanted to sue FIFA over the non use of grass fields especially for championship matches.

The key from a referee point of view is it SAFE?
Is it attached properly?
Does the cleats required to play on the rest of the field match up or suddenly you slip or trip on the harder material?

With the costs being what they are, those in charge of the field, union worker versus volunteers, grass growing conditions, the groundskeeper does what is necessary to be functional. Although certain fields have been adapted due to weathering and costs by competitions bylaws better have an explanation if FIFA matches are occurring on it! I never even considered the patch aspect I read the integrated aspect and thought in a pinch as a repair it would ok if you thought it safe. I recall us putting sand into a muddy PA area that effectively made it a different ground surface than the muddy pitch outside lots of players falling so even natural materials can cause safety issues I would report such inconsistencies' to the league in the match report. rd

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi John,
Although FIFA has directives requesting this not be allowed, in Australia, we have a number of fields that have cricket pitches with astroturf in the middle of the field. They're annoying, making for an inconsistent surface, but it doesn't make the field unplayable - and it doesn't make it dangerous. But you need to check the area around it. For instance, sometimes we've had a lot of soft sand around that pitch to try to cover up the concrete base - that can be unsafe.

If the astroturf is just a strip lying there, can it be easily kicked up? Is it sitting on top and clearly getting in the way?

Don't worry too much about the hybrid nature - these are the sorts of compromises we need to make at grassroots pitches which have more use and less maintenance than top-tier pitches. Just worry about if it significantly affects safety and playability.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi John,
You are right in your understanding of the reference to hybrid systems - it does refer to integrated systems, usually meaning a partly artificial base or subsurface level. The law does not allow for fields with separate sections of natural grass and artificial turf, for safety reasons. This is explained in the FAQ to Law 1 as follows:

''Q1: Why is it not allowed for the field of play to have some parts which are grass and some which are artificial?
This is for safety reasons as different footwear is needed for artificial and grass surfaces, especially in wet weather conditions. There is also a potential danger that the 'boundary' where grass and artificial surfaces meet could become uneven and dangerous.''

Now, I suppose there could be an argument at lower levels of the game - and if the referee is sure that the safety issues mentioned by the IFAB are not a concern, that this is a mostly technical violation and we could apply the advice in the Laws that says:

''Referees are expected to use common sense and to apply the ‘spirit of the game’ when applying the Laws of the Game, especially when making decisions relating to whether a match takes place and/or continues.

This is especially true for the lower levels of football where it may not always be possible for the Law to be strictly applied.''

The law then goes on to say that so long as there are no safety issues, games should be allowed to start/continue if there are various minor technical violations of the law regarding the field of play such as corner flags or line markings.

However it also says that:

''In such cases, the referee [...] must submit a report to the appropriate authorities.''

Once again, the advice to start/continue does not apply if there are safety concerns.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
In our Leagues we have had two instances of this where clubs 'repaired' damaged areas such as goal areas with artificial grass. That is not allowed under the Laws and the clubs were written to by the League to instruct them to correct those repairs by removing the artificial materials.
Law 1 tells that the field must be either totally natural or totally artificial or totally hybrid. It cannot be a combination of the three.
In this situation the matter needs to be reported to the competition organisers highlighting the fact that the laws of the game does not allow this. Referee Grove has quoted the FAQ in the Laws and the explanation given by IFAB.
Would I stop a game going ahead? Probably not if it did not look dangerous and it will take some time to sort. If a visiting goalkeeper complained about it and he did not want to play then I would accede to that request by not allowing the game to proceed. The home GK may be prepared for the artificial grass with padded shorts / tracksuit and appropriate footwear.
In our Leagues there are ground inspections and this should be picked up at that time. If the repair using artificial turf happens during the season referees need to report this.

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