Pan Stadia - Feb 2005
As the sports world has learned, the current generation of artificial turf provides increased usage along with playing characteristics that more resemble natural grass. As a result of the numerous product developments, FIFA expanded its FIFA Quality Concept to include artificial turf in 2001. This led to the first global standard of artificial turf for football that manufacturers could strive to meet. As a result, worldwide acceptance of artificial turf has quickly grown.
"The artificial turf products for football have come a long way from a cost and performance perspective since the days of the original nylon-based sports carpet," says John Baize, Director of Global Sports Systems. Baize previously served as International Director of SRI Sports, the former makers of AstroTurf and AstroPlay.
The current generation of artificial turf generally contains tall piles of fibrillated polyethylene (PE) fibres, with an infill mix (rubber and/or sand) to support the fibres and provide shock absorbency. This type of turf is also usually tufted, resulting in a lower manufacturing cost than the original knitted, nylon-based turf. In addition, the current generation of artificial turf provides enhancements for player comfort and appearance, whilst significantly decreasing the risk of abrasions. As with many new technologies, prices were originally high due to demand for the added benefits of the new generation of artificial turf.
However, as John Baize confirmed: "The current generation of fibrillated PE turf product is reaching its maturity phase. Many carpet companies have duplicated the construction and as a result, prices have decreased over the past few years."
With several manufacturers offering similar products, some artificial turf buyers face challenges when evaluating the best solution for their needs.
Users Demanding More from their Artificial Pitch
There are a number of resources available for artificial turf buyers to determine the best solution for their needs. Various sport organisations throughout the world, such as FIFA and UEFA, are working to increase the awareness and quality of artificial turf products. Also, industry trade groups such as: EATP in Europe and SportsTurf Managers Association in America foster communication and facilitate awareness of artificial turf pitches.
Wil Ditzel, Director of Global Sports Systems, and also Chairman of the EATP Synthetic Sports Surfaces Group, says these increasing efforts by organisations throughout the world will only help the industry and artificial turf buyers. As Wil Ditzel stated: "Users need to be educated about how the artificial turf system affects athletic performance. They should also focus more on field maintenance to ensure the field is kept in prime condition over its expected lifetime."
In fact, FIFA and UEFA recently announced that they will work together to develop joint artificial turf quality standards). FIFA recently announced its FIFA RECOMMENDED 2 STAR rating system. FIFA's website states: "Based on player's feedback, medical research, test results and information from the industry since the implementation in 2001, a second, more stringent standard has been developed in addition to the existing level. The creation of a top-of-the-range FIFA standard will further improve playability and safety. This new benchmark will lead the industry to develop artificial turf products even closer to the perfect natural grass pitch model and provide the world of football with the best artificial turf surfaces for the professional game."
Global Sports Systems responds with Xtreme Turf™
Global Sports Systems has responded to the market trends by dedicating its business model towards flexible solutions, world-class quality and innovation. Its management team consists of former international directors of the AstroTurf brand and has relationships in over 35 countries.
As Baize noted: "Our veteran team has been involved with hundreds of key installations throughout the world. We have learned many customers have unique requirements and we must be able to provide a solution to fit their needs."
Global Sports Systems provides customised solutions through a range of Xtreme Turf products. They work closely with the client, the architect or other consultant to determine the customers' specific needs. Global Sports then offers solutions based upon the application and the value the clients are seeking — Good, Better or Best. Xtreme Turf is engineered to balance the needs of the athletes, trainers and financial managers.
The Xtreme Turf system consists of tested polyethylene fibres, high quality backing, which absorbs the coating application, and is filled with a mix of rubber-only or rubber and sand. Xtreme Turf Pro offers a high value solution with its fibrillated fibres, whilst Xtreme Turf Premier consists of the latest mono fibres available in the market. Both product lines have been tested for proven performance. Depending upon the customer's use, Global Sports has the optimal combination of fibre and infill that allows the surface to bend and move under athletes in a similar manner to natural grass.
As part of its commitment to superior service, Global Sports supplies these products through three world-class manufacturing locations based in North America, Europe and Asia. Each of these locations offers the highest quality control measures and utilises the finest raw materials in the market. As Wil Ditzel puts it: "Whether our client is in the United States, Sweden, China or the Middle East, we are able to exceed our client's expectations for consistent quality and on-time delivery."
Just recently, Global Sports met a short-deadline to complete an Xtreme Turf Premier mono fibre project for a client in Canada. Barber Sport Surfaces is Global Sports' exclusive partner in Eastern Canada that installed the pitch. Its President, David Shaw, commented: "The responsiveness of Global Sports was truly amazing. The field was produced, inspected and shipped on a very tight schedule. We even received an inspection report with pictures and analysis of our field."
Tony Bisceglia, President of Vaughan Sportsplex, added: "All of the teams that use our facility have commented on the superb quality of the playing surfaces. In addition, the Xtreme Turf products are very safe and user-friendly. Thanks for a job well done and keep up the good work."
Global Sports Launches China Joint Venture
The acceptance of artificial turf has quickly spread throughout China in recent years and it has consequently emerged as the world's second largest artificial turf market — just behind the United States. With China's ever-increasing presence in the artificial turf industry, Global Sports Systems has recently announced a major strategic event involving ACT Corporation, the leading manufacturer in China.
John Baize commented: "We are pleased to enter into a joint venture with ACT Corporation of China. This provides an excellent opportunity to continue our rapid growth, service our Asian customers and supplement our international product offerings. Our joint venture with ACT follows our corporate strategy to deliver superior artificial turf products through innovative technology, integrity and the highest manufacturing quality possible. ACT and its Managing Director, Mr Lei Ai Xin, represent these important principles."
Global Sports' flagship Xtreme Turf brand will continue to be marketed in conjunction with ACTurf. ACT will invest US$10,000,000 over three years on production facilities, research, testing equipment and global sales. Additional terms were not disclosed, but Baize and Ditzel will serve as Directors of ACT Corporation, and Mr Lei Ai Xin will serve as a Director of Global Sports Systems.
Mr Lei added: "Global Sports Systems is an emerging leader in the artificial turf industry. Their excellent reputation, international artificial turf expertise, and product development capabilities are tremendous assets. Through our combined resources and efforts, our value to our customers will greatly increase. We aim to become the global leader of the artificial turf industry."
They are off to a solid start as this joint venture follows ACT's recent acquisition of BSM in China. BSM has the largest artificial turf sales volume in China.
ACT is also focused on quality, as it is one of the drafters of the national turf standard in China. Ditzel advised: "ACT's reputation for quality is second to none. Leading up to this joint venture, we have already aligned our quality programmes and product development efforts. ACT's state-of-the-art equipment, integrated manufacturing approach and quality culture are keys to their success. We were also impressed by their commitment to utilise the finest raw materials supplied by prestigious companies such as Dow and BASF."
In fact, ACT has implemented a rigorous quality programme and anticipates its ISO9001 and ISO14000 (environmental programme) certification by Summer 2005.
Global Sports stated that whether clientsare buying the Xtreme Turf or ACTurf brand, they are assured of the best possible artificial turf pitch. Concepts that are common in other industries such as zero-defect standards, total quality management and quality circles are found in the culture of Global Sports Systems. The downstream costs and loss of customer confidence is so detrimental with poor quality goods, that Global Sports has placed quality as the core fundamental to its company's mission.
Global Sports implements stringent quality assurance methods throughout the development cycle of a product. "We start by using the finest raw materials, supplied by major multi-national suppliers," says Ditzel. "We then make sure the products are fully tested at independent laboratories."
In fact, Global Sports Systems has received UEFA certifications for three of its Xtreme Turf products. An Xtreme Turf Pro field was also tested and met the International Artificial Turf Standards (IATS). Testing by ISA Sport showed that Xtreme Turf met the stringent requirements of the Royal Dutch Football Federation, whilst tests at NBI proved that Xtreme Turf met the important Scandinavian requirements for artificial turf.
During the manufacturing phases, the Global Sports quality programme focuses on problem prevention in addition to problem detection. Depending upon the order specifics, Ditzel commented: "We have up to twenty-two quality checks to verify fibre, backing, coating and turf production."
After the turf is produced, a final visual inspection is performed, including a check of key product characteristics to verify consistency with specifications. Global Sports will also retain samples of all products that are shipped to the job site for future testing and comparison with field performance.
Jim Siegle, an engineer and long-time artificial turf consultant advised: "Global Sports has a unique way of holding its Xtreme Turf products accountable to the highest standards. They volunteer their quality inspection results to their customers. I am sure customers are pleasantly surprised by Global Sports' openness when they receive the inspection reports along with pictures."
Their quality approach matches their overall business philosophy. As Baize puts it: "Integrity and true customer service is the only way for us to do business."
The Xtreme Turf system is complete with a comprehensive maintenance manual based upon facts. Global Sports made a significant investment to provide its customers with specific details on how they may properly maintain their artificial pitches for long-term quality, performance and appearance.
One example of the service and quality methods of Global Sports can be seen with the FC Sparta Nijkerk Stadium Field and training pitch.
In August 2004, Global Sports Systems' partner, De Ridder BV, installed two football fields at FC Sparta, Nijkerk, in The Netherlands. De Ridder BV is a well-known and dedicated sport field constructor in The Netherlands.
Prior to the installation, laboratory tests were conducted to check the artificial turf system according to the Royal Dutch Football standards. These are similar to the FIFA standards. The project was completed in thirty days, and ISA Sports conducted the field tests. The results were positive and complied with the foot-ballistic requirements.
A spokesperson for the club was impressed with the high quality workmanship during the installation, commenting on the: "Efficient planning, attention to detail and most importantly, meeting the deadline. This enabled the club to hold their opening ceremony on time!"
The field has been approved for training, competition games and tournaments. From a usage point of view, more and more of the main field is utilised both for Cup games and also for training during the week. De Ridder will also carry out the maintenance of the field to ensure the performance will remain high for many years.
When selecting Global Sports Systems, a customer seems assured of receiving the latest and proven technology. A large part of its budget is committed to developing new systems.
Ditzel commented: "We have a three-year research and development plan that will yield improvements on existing products in the short-term and enable us to launch a new generation of turf within two years."
Global Sports starts its product development approach through its years of experience in the artificial turf industry and an understanding of players' needs. "Through our global resources, customer feedback, focus groups, and involvement in various trade organisations, we are able to focus our research and development efforts towards the needs of the market", said Baize.
Global Sports then breaks down each component of the artificial turf system and analyses how each may be improved. Ditzel noted: "We have ongoing joint development projects with various fibre and backing manufacturers, as well as work in the areas of shock-pads and infill."
Infill material is a very important aspect of the artificial turf system. In Europe, quality parameters are being set up to determine and differentiate the good and the unfavourable rubber particles. Ditzel added: "It would be wise to check the infill on quality areas like the degree of pulverisation, uniformity, and other aspects which may influence the long-term quality of the infill. More customers should verify whether the life span of the infill matches the life span of the rest of the artificial turf pitch. Global Sports can help in this regard."
The latest innovation for Global Sports is reflected in its Xtreme Turf Premier products. This product is based upon the latest mono fibre technology. It has yielded improved durability, appearance, and foot and ball performance. Options are also available which improve infill stability and fibre memory.
"We have received tremendous feedback from the market because the field instantly looks like natural grass and is ready for immediate play,” Ditzel advised.
A Look Ahead
Most of the details on future product enhancements are being kept strictly confidential, however Ditzel mentioned that several development initiatives include: "Even greater fibre technology, turf and sub-base integration, and a new field hockey product."
Global Sports is also conducting additional FIFA testing, to start in 2005, consistent with its philosophy that: "Technology and its benefits must always be proven." As Ditzel summarised: "We are committed to providing quality, expertise, athletic performance and innovation. It is innovation that drives our business and will position us as the long-term technology leader."
A spokesperson for the company issued the following statement after the recent Tsunami disaster: "Everyone at Global Sports Systems is deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy in South Asia and East Africa. Our hearts are with those families that live in the devastated regions, especially our many friends and agents that live in those countries. To help support the disaster relief efforts, a portion of our 2005 revenues will be donated to the Red Cross. In addition, our Xtreme Turf projects in any afflicted area during 2005 will be made at a large discount."
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