The NFL is getting a hybrid field for its two games in Frankfurt next month, a year after players complained about slipping on the natural grass in Munich.
The hybrid surface was installed last weekend at Deutsche Bank Park ahead of the Nov. 5 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. The New England Patriots will then play the Indianapolis Colts at the same stadium a week later.
After the NFL’s first-ever regular-season game in Germany, players and coaches from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks complained about the surface at Allianz Arena, the home of Bundesliga soccer champions Bayern Munich. The game caused enough damage that the grass had to be replaced afterward.
“It’s definitely something we’re always re-evaluating, the U.S. colleagues are re-evaluating, and there was the ask for this year to have another pitch in there,” Alexander Steinforth, the NFL’s general manager for Germany, told The Associated Press.
Hybrid surfaces are widely used across Europe in soccer stadiums. Systems vary but the fields are generally 90% or more of natural grass with synthetic fibers woven into them as reinforcement. Liverpool's pitch installed at Anfield in 2022 is 95% natural grass.
Playing surfaces have been a hot topic since Week 1 when Aaron Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon in his debut with the New York Jets.
The NFL said it collaborates with the host stadium in “to ensure that the game field is in the best possible condition and is in compliance with the NFL mandatory practices.”
The league didn’t specifically cite the condition of the Allianz Arena surface for the switch from natural grass to hybrid at Deutsche Bank Park, home of Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt.
“We continue to review the best surfaces for teams to play on and work with our stadium partners — both before and after events,” the NFL said in a statement. “In Frankfurt, the hybrid product will also allow for reduced wear to the playing surface ensuring quality for back-to-back games.”
After the Bucs beat the Seahawks 21-16 last season in Munich, Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin complained about flying 10 hours to play on a “terrible” field. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said it was “slick” and “I wish the field was firmer.” Bucs coach Todd Bowles described the grass as “real slippery and short.”
The NFL declined to discuss specifics of the hybrid surface, including the cost.
Frankfurt had been replacing its natural grass field each season because of wear and tear, but now hopes the hybrid pitch will last beyond next summer's European Championship — the soccer tournament that Germany is hosting.
The new pitch will see its first action Thursday when Eintracht Frankfurt hosts HJK Helsinki in a Europa Conference League soccer game.
Bayern Munich switched to a hybrid field at Allianz Arena this summer.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl