Some football (soccer) clubs in Europe installed artificial surfaces in the 1980s, which were called plastic pitches (often derisively) in countries such as England. In England several professional club venues had adopted the pitches, QPR’s Loftus Road, Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road, Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park and Preston’s Deepdale until the English FA banned them in 1988. Artificial turf gained a bad reputation on both sides of the Atlantic with fans and especially with players. The first artificial turfs were a far harder surface than grass, and soon became known as an unforgiving playing surface which was prone to cause more injuries, and in particular, more serious joint injuries, than would comparatively be suffered on a grass surface. Artificial turf was also regarded as aesthetically unappealing to many fans.
In 1981, London football club Queens Park Rangers dug up its grass pitch and installed an artificial one. Others followed, and by the mid-1980s there were four plastic grass pitches in operation in the English league. They soon became a national joke: the ball pinged round like it was made of rubber, the players kept losing their footing, and anyone who fell over risked carpet burns. Unsurprisingly, fans complained that the football was awful to watch and, one by one, the clubs returned to natural grass.
In the 1990s many North American football clubs also removed their artificial surfaces and re-installed grass, while others moved to new stadiums with state-of-the-art grass surfaces that were designed to withstand cold temperatures where the climate demanded it. The use of artificial turf was later banned by FIFA, UEFA and by many domestic football associations, though, in recent years, both governing bodies have expressed an interest in resurrecting the use of artificial surfaces as the related technologies continue to evolve. UEFA has now been heavily involved in programs to test artificial turf with tests made in several grounds meeting with FIFA approval. A team of UEFA, FIFA and German company Polytan conducted tests in the Stadion Salzburg Wals-Siezenheim in Salzburg, Austria which is due to have matches played on it in the UEFA EURO 2008. It is the second FIFA 2 Star approved football turf pitch in a European domestic top flight, after Dutch club Heracles Almelo received the FIFA certificate in August last year. The tests were approved.