With many regional Victorian football leagues being forced to cut back on the number of games that could be played during the last year because of drought, the AFL is looking at the possibility of playing the game on synthetic grass surfaces. By midway through the season, many ovals in country areas are deemed unsafe for play.

The University of Ballarat has been asked to develop a new-generation synthetic turf that will enable grounds to be built to withstand the rigors of a full season with increased participation. The AFL have also been joined by Cricket Australia in the project with a similar problem going on during the cricket season.

David Matthews, the AFL’s general manager of national and international development said “The AFL, along with Cricket Australia, have been looking at possible long-term options for affected grounds across regional and suburban Australia that would require less water and also allow us to use grounds more often and still have them in a safe condition for play. One of those options is looking at artificial turf.”

With drought around Australia becoming more severe than ever and water conservation a pressing issue, it is no longer possible to pump water into our ovals to keep them grassed for junior sports. The answer could be an artificial grass surface, similar to that used for hockey and some soccer grounds.

One school has already made the switch. Darley Primary School in Bacchus Marsh to the north of Melbourne has had an artificial grass oval since April 2008 and believe it has been a great investment. Not only is it a popular place for the students to play during lunch and recess, there is interest from local soccer clubs in using the facilities for training.

At Seymour Shaw Park in Miranda, a synthetic grass pitch was installed in 2006 for the local senior soccer club to provide a high performance, drought proof and low maintenance surface that allows football to be played at a high standard no matter the weather conditions.