The Groundsman

March 2016

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COMMENT 5 the Groundsman March 2016 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions Geoff Webb, Chief Executive, the Institute of Groundsmanship So, how do we make sense of it all? It is no surprise that The FA and the toxicologists have made the statements they have. Very often the word 'independent' is used when quoting research. But is all existing research truly independent? To find the answer, you need to investigate who commissioned the research, who paid for the research and what motivated the research in the first place. That is not always easy. It's rather like trying to find the original source for the rubber crumb that is now on a pitch near you. Even hardened advocates of the product would struggle to provide that answer. What is evident is that across the world of football, from FIFA globally through UEFA in Europe and with The FA, the IRB and the home country sports associations, it is patently clear that there has been a massive long-term promotion of and investment in artificial turf, of which rubber crumb has consistently been a controversial element. Not good if you have invested in it, and not good for business if it is called into question. So, a new battleground emerges with those selling and marketing artificial turf against those advocating natural turf, each looking to convince the wider world of the merits or issues of both surfaces. Is the issue of rubber crumb infill an inconvenient truth or just an inconvenience? Whatever your stance, the debate is set to continue. Surely, as an industry we have a simple duty of care? If, as the EPA statement says, research is limited, surely more research is required? Perhaps the Environment Agency or the British Medical Association, organisations with no links to the industry, should provide a second opinion? What if the UK father is right? What if the USA coach is right? Even if it is only analytical evidence at present, one death is one too many. The IOG believes this is an issue that must not be literally swept under the carpet, but we must take a balanced view. This issue has parallels with goalpost safety and, as a result of a public awareness campaign, a nationwide scheme addressed goalpost safety with the result that many lives are now being saved because the industry and The FA acted and goals are now subject to European and British safety standards. What we need with rubber crumb are safe standards that make any component part of any surface fit for use and safe for the end user. As Dr Young stated in his interview, "There are no current British, European or worldwide standards for SBR rubber in terms of uses for sport". Isn't that enough to set alarm bells ringing? We will continue to look at all the evidence and will act in the best interests of our members, reporting equally the case for and against and, where necessary, challenge if dissatisfied with the answers. What we must not lose sight of, however, is that we have a responsibility to the end user to provide a safe and consistent playing surface – whether synthetic, reinforced or natural turf. That's what our members pride themselves on. Their passion, combined with the natural desire of human nature to check and challenge will ultimately provide the answers we need. What if the UK father is right? What if the USA coach is right? Even if it is only analytical evidence at present, one death is one too many. We will continue to look at all the evidence and will act in the best interests of our members, reporting equally the case for and against and, where necessary, challenge if dissatisfied with the answers. " "

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