While thousands of hockey clubs and sporting facilities around the world are fortunate enough to have synthetic turf surfaces dedicated almost solely to the purpose of playing hockey, there are many places where that simply isn’t possible.
This is a challenge frequently faced by schools and community sports centres, where the necessity to cater for numerous different sports and leisure activities is very much at the centre of any decision-making process regarding the potential creation or renewal of a synthetic surface.
Often, the attraction of long pile 3G pitches – which have proven very popular with football – is too great to resist. However, these surfaces are generally considered to be not entirely suitable for various sports, including hockey, and the installation of a 3G surface often results in teams and clubs being forced to look elsewhere for a place to play.
Thankfully, a game-changing development means that there is a versatile, hockey-friendly alternative available. A pioneering joint initiative between the sports of hockey, tennis and netball has led to the creation of an innovative new multi-sport concept known as ‘Gen 2’. Utilising the proven technology of short-pile synthetic turf preferred by hockey, and incorporating the latest innovations in shockpads, this surface has been specially designed to become a great all-round solution, not just for the three sports previously mentioned, but also others like lacrosse, futsal, softball, korfball and so much more.
“The development of the Gen 2 surface is a real collaborative effort, with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and England Netball working closely with the FIH, England Hockey and the European Hockey Federation towards a goal that is mutually beneficial”, said FIH Facilities & Quality Programme Manager Alastair Cox. “Huge efforts have been made by all parties to ensure that the surface meets the performance and durability levels required and expected by all three sports, enabling the creation of a high quality, versatile solution that is a great choice for multi-sport use.”
In terms of both sustainability and the long-term success of what is a significant financial investment, the attractiveness of multi-sport fields and courts for community and school sports facilities is clear for all to see. Quite often, the need to cater for as many people within their local area as possible is a pre-requisite when it comes to securing investment from local or national authorities. Therefore, increasing the number of sports that can be played on the field directly increases the number of people who will benefit from its installation.
Whilst the Gen 2 surface allows for the sporting opportunities to be maximised, there has been little compromise in terms of performance, being given the seal of approval by governing bodies representing the sports of hockey, tennis and netball. Gen 2 surfaces comply with the FIH Hockey Turf and Field Standards, while the testing of elements such as bounce, slip, rotational resistance and pace ensure that the performance and quality standards required for community tennis and netball are attained; allowing the three sports to work together to create the opportunity to have additional community and school playing areas.
In partnership with England Hockey, England Netball and the Lawn Tennis Association, and endorsed by the European Hockey Federation, the International Tennis Federation and Sport England, the FIH has produced a guide that shares the Gen 2 design concepts, promotes good practice and encourages the development of facilities that all of the sports can benefit from.