The Dutch Eredivisie is to ban plastic pitches from the 2025/26 season, 20 years after they were hailed as the future of football.
The 18 clubs and the league’s governing body, the Eredivisie CV, voted to make natural or hybrid playing surfaces a condition of membership of the league.
Last season four top-flight clubs played on artificial grass – Excelsior, Volendam, Cambuur Leeuwarden and Emmen, though Cambuur were relegated and Emmen face a play-off with Almere City to retain their place.
Several Keuken Kampioen Divisie clubs – including plastic pioneers Heracles Almelo – now face having to rip up their pitches if they win promotion.
Others, such as Roda JC and ADO Den Haag, have reverted to natural grass in recent years. Further down the chain around 2,000 amateur clubs still play on plastic.
The first Dutch club to install synthetic turf was Heracles in 2003. At the time it was seen as a breakthrough, with lower maintenance costs and no risk of matches being called off because of waterlogged or frozen pitches.
But players disliked the surfaces because of the perceived increased risk of leg injuries and the different way the ball behaves on them.
They were also seen as giving home teams an unfair advantage: recently Feyenoord coach Arie Slot accused Excelsior of deliberately leaving their pitch unwatered before an Eredivisie match in order to slow the game down.
In 2016 Dutch researchers warned that the surfaces, which are made from recycled rubber, could increase players’ risk of cancer. A study of 60 pitches found they contained up to six times the amount of carcinogenic compounds allowed in consumer products.
But Jan Smit, the former chairman of Heracles who set the trend for plastic pitches, said most of the objections, such as players complaining of picking up injuries, were unfounded.
“You don’t hear anyone complain about artificial grass when it’s frozen for five days straight in February,” he said.
“On natural grass it becomes a mudbath and games have to be called off. And just look how bad the pitches are at clubs like Groningen and Utrecht.”
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