FIH: Revolutionising Hockey – FIH Banning Water-Based Pitches in International Games Post-Paris 2024

After the Olympic Games in Paris, no more global tournaments will be played on water fields. A revolution in hockey, to which attention was paid during the National Hockey Congress on Saturday. The Dutch clubs are following the changes closely.

It was a crowded Saturday afternoon in the cafeteria of Rabobank’s head office in Utrecht. At the place where salads are usually put together, the focus was now on the green field of the future. The development of the new, ‘waterless’ field is in full swing, as was apparent from the presentation by field supplier Ten Cate Grass.

‘We are on the verge of a major change in the synthetic turf market’, hockey administrators from all over the country were told. From Haackey to HIC and from Den Bosch to Pijnacker. They listened with prickly ears to the latest state of affairs in the field. A subject that fitted in seamlessly with ‘Looking at the future, working together on an accessible and modern hockey sport’, as the theme of the entire conference was.

The ‘carpet’, which is still being worked on. Photo: Koen Suyk

A first for Weesp, a preview of Gooische

The 2024 Games will therefore be the last ‘wet tournament’, as Michael Vogel, the CEO of Ten Cate Grass, once again emphasized. He revealed that the construction of a new type of field will already start this season. At Weesp, the first mat will be placed that is completely free of water, but – it sounded hopeful – that should not compromise on speed. ‘We want to experiment with these fields in various places in the country. This mainly concerns the replacement of existing artificial turf pitches. A field two, or a field six. By-fields, therefore, which had to be overhauled anyway. It is not our intention to encourage clubs to replace their good, first pitches,” said the grass specialist.

The benefits flew over the white tables of the lunch room. Less wear and tear, less water consumption and a development that contributes to globalization, because there is a scarcity of water in many parts of the world. The waterless field is being fully tested and further perfected. They noticed this at Gooische, where a practice field was built two years ago. A tentative taste of the new normal. ‘We now have two ‘quarter fields’. Our keepers train on it and it is a playing field for children. A third field – not a whole one – is in the works’, says board member Ruurd Bakker.

KNHB chairman Erik Klein Nagelvoort at the National Hockey Congress. Photo: Koen Suyk

‘It’s quite nice,’ says Bakker. ‘But on really dry days you notice that it is more slippery than a water field. It is then more difficult for keepers to slide or make slidings. Sometimes it requires a different technique. It’s a good idea to experiment further with this. But I think it’s also good that the main fields are not being replaced yet. That skid resistance must improve if you want everyone to give up their water field for it.’

In short: there are still steps to be taken. “We are following developments with interest. That’s why we’re here. After next season we have to replace a water field. If the new, dry field has already improved slightly, that is certainly an option to look at. As a club, we want to be at the forefront of this. We have held international matches at our club in the past. We would like to continue doing that.’

Carpet, but also the sliding issue

Casper Kruijt moves a ball smoothly back and forth on the small, busy demo field in the Rabo building. ‘It feels like a rug. As if I’m back in the living room, where my mother used to not let me play hockey’, grins the member of Huizen, who is part of the working group ‘new board’ of the North Holland club. ‘I find it difficult to determine how much this will wobble. The damping cannot yet be properly estimated. But the first impression is good.’

The subject of ‘field replacement’ is also on the table at Huizen. ‘We must and want to replace three,’ says Kruijt. “We are now discussing this with the municipality. We will also include future plans for the dry fields. We find it very interesting, but it may be a bit too early for our wish at the moment.’ 

This year’s World Cup was still played on water. This will no longer be the case for the next edition in 2026. Photo: William Vernes

Kruijt also calls ‘sliding’ one of the main issues. “The dry fields that are built first are not for the top teams. If they do play on this, then we all have to come along. I am very curious how the development will continue. Of course we like to participate in that as a club.’

So the curiosity has definitely worked. ‘If it’s up to me, we’ll have a field like that within two years. Weesp is close to us. If possible there? Precisely. Then why not on Huizen?’

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