An artificial outfield in the Hoofdklasse?
It seems increasingly likely that history will be made next season, with Hoofdklasse club HBS Den Haag playing its home games on an artificial outfield.
It has been known for some time that the local authority in Den Haag, with the support of HBS’s large football section, was keen to install artificial football pitches in place of the existing main cricket ground.
Now Pim van der Vegt, a member of the HBS technical committee has written to the KNCB Board confirming that work will begin next spring and proposing that the use of the ground for Hoofdklasse matches in 2008 be approved as a pilot scheme. It would be evaluated next autumn in the light of the season’s experience.
The letter offers assurances that great care has been taken in finding a form of surface which performs well in tests of the bouncing and running of a cricket ball, the possibility of diving or falling without increased risk of injury, and the degree of warmth generated by the surface. Even in a Dutch summer that last point can be an issue.
Existing KNCB policy permits the use of artificial outfields in the lower leagues, but not in the top two divisions. When the matter was last discussed in a general meeting, several leading clubs made their opposition to the idea apparent.
But the Accommodation Committee has since argued that the new generation of artificial pitches is suitable even for cricket at the highest level, and the Board’s Action Plan for 2008 anticipates that the HBS proposal will be accepted.
With Dutch local authorities evidently convinced that artificial grounds are cheaper to maintain than natural grass surfaces, the footballers – or sometimes, hockey players – dominant in many clubs, and little understanding of the specific requirements of cricket, the new HBS field may turn out to be the thin edge of a very large wedge.
At the same time, the Board confirms that the use of coconut matting pitches will no longer be permitted in the Hoofdklasse with effect from next season. The Eerste Klasse will follow in 2010.
Last season all but four of the clubs in the two top divisions were playing on either turf or on the officially recommended Nottsweave pitches.