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FCB Page 64-65 4/9/10 11:47 AM Page 1

64 Groundcare Feature

Pitches – Why Clubs Should


Prepare Rather Than Repair By Carl Pass - Director of Premier Pitches Limited
Professional football pitch new pitches rather than repairing old should it start and how is it achieved?
management is no longer about ones. The advantage is that the existing pitch
providing a surface which will Come the end of the season, clubs who is available to the club to safely utilise
withstand the rigours of 90 wish to maintain a high standard of for income generation prior to the new
minutes of football, any league playing surface whilst maximising pitch preparation. Corporate and
groundsman will testify to this. revenue from other opportunities must community events, sports days, pay-to-
Groundsmen now have the additional accept that the pitch has done its job play football tournaments, five-a-side
pressure of providing a surface that will and replace it. Particularly in a stadium leagues and music concerts can all be
be used for a pre-match warm-up which environment where the groundsman is undertaken in the knowledge that they
can last up to 30 minutes. There are essentially growing grass indoors, will not affect the quality of the playing
also half time activities including penalty beginning the season with a new pitch surface as it will be removed and
shootouts, marching bands, dancers
and junior matches played across the
pitch. In addition, many teams now
insist on a warm-down after the match
which, in some cases, becomes a full-
blown training session for squad players
not involved in the 90 minutes of action
which has just unfolded.
Success in European competitions
brings additional burdens as travelling
teams have access to the match pitch for
training sessions on the day prior to the
tie being played. Other events such as
music concerts bring in much needed
revenue to clubs who are in the business
of making money by what ever means
to support their main objective, which is
to be successful on the pitch.
All these activities are undertaken often
in grounds which have either evolved
into multi-use venues or, worse still,
have been designed with little or no
thought to the well being of the pitch. offers the greatest opportunity for the replaced. An additional benefit, in some
The consequence of such relentless use surface to withstand the difficult cases, is that part of the income
is a degenerated surface which may environment it is expected to perform generated from such events may be
suffer from compaction, poor drainage, within. used to part-finance the pitch
little or no grass cover and uneven improvements.
Stadium pitches in general have
levels.
improved tremendously over the past Pitch preparation can start as soon as
So where does this leave the person ten years, which is a credit to all the corporate events are completed but
entrusted with producing a surface involved including groundsmen, preferably before the beginning of June.
which will cater for all the needs of a researchers and manufacturers of How does the preparation system work
professional football club? Clubs will specialist turf maintenance equipment. in practice?
not reduce the height of stands to I’m fortunate to work alongside
reduce the impact of shade, nor will they progressive agronomists and the new 1. A consultant or the groundsman
open up corners of the stadium to allow generation of sports turf should either prepare a specification or
increased air movement or reduce the managers/groundsmen, who realise the discuss with a reputable contractor the
amount of additional activity on the advantages of preparing a new pitch, work that is required and when it can
pitch during match days and in the close rather than repairing an old one. commence. The specification will
season. It is my view that we must take a include a bill of quantities which will
So what are the advantages of pitch outline to the contractor what he is
positive stance to the situation by
preparation rather than repair? When expected to supply and what the club
adopting a new philosophy of preparing
FCB Page 64-65 4/9/10 11:47 AM Page 2

Groundcare Feature 65

may wish to supply themselves. As a fertilisers be required, they should be problems later in the season by
contractor, I feel it’s important that the applied at this stage to ensure they are impeding surface drainage.
groundsmen choose materials that they thoroughly incorporated in to the vital
9. Fine finishing is a vital aspect of
want to work with, as when we’ve top100mm of rootzone.
achieving the end result. This work
finished and left the site, it is they who 6. Once initial cultivations are complete should be undertaken by skilled
are responsible for seeing the pitch and dependent upon the specification, it operators using specialist machinery
through to the end of the season. would be normal practice to apply new and equipment. When surface levels are
2. Materials should be ordered and rootzone material, which is often seen to be satisfactory the next stage of
provision made to store them safely Fibresand or Fibrelastic. This is intended the works can commence.
away from the elements as required. to replenish any material lost during the
Bulk materials such as Fibresand or removal of the surface with the Koro 10. The pitch should be over-seeded
Fibrelastic need to be ordered in TopMaker. It’s important to use a with a seeder designed specifically for
advance and a delivery time and date specially adapted drop spreader, such sowing a pitch from scratch. Usually two
agreed. as the Raycam Speedresser, which is passes will be made with this type of
capable of handling this type of machine, but more may be required if
3. As soon as the club’s corporate
material without bridging or blocking as the groundsman or consultant dictate
department has finished with the pitch
work progresses. otherwise. Finally, the pitch should be
and all coverings are removed, the
flat rolled to seal in the seed and
contractor should be on site ready to 7. The evenly spread material can then
commence work. be integrated in to the top 100mm by produce the finished level.

4. The existing pitch surface should be further cultivation, normally with a The first stage of pitch preparation is
stripped using a Koro TopMaker, a rotary harrow. At this stage visual then complete. It is then up to the
groundsman to use his skill and the
relevant technology available to him to
produce and maintain the new sward.
He can carry out this work in the
knowledge that he has a completely
refreshed rootzone, free from any
layering and its associated problems.
Drainage rates will be increased
considerably preventing waterlogging
during the wetter winter months. The
sward will be made up of new grass
plants all establishing seminal roots
which will form the basis of a strong
root mass, essential for durability. The
weedgrass Poa annua will be largely
eradicated to the point when it is no
longer a problem and the whole pitch
“Come the end of the season, clubs who wish to maintain a will be in better condition than it would
high standard of playing surface whilst maximising revenue have been if it was a pitch renovated
from other opportunities must accept that the pitch has done from the previous season.
its job and replace it.” The work I’ve described is more
expensive than standard renovation but
superb piece of equipment that has not so high that it should not be within
revolutionised the way pitches are inspection will dictate how many passes
with the cultivator is required to produce the budget of any professional football
renovated. The Koro strips the entire club. Those with very limited budgets
surface, removing all organic an evenly blended rootzone. The final
pass will be made and levels trimmed to could achieve an acceptable result by
accumulations leaving a clean, debris-
be consistent with those of the original fraize mowing to clean out the
free rootzone which can then be worked
construction. vegetation and overseeding, enabling
with to produce the desired playing
them to begin each season with a new
surface. 8. Consolidation will be required next.
sward.
5. Initial cultivation can then commence This is a vital aspect of the works and
to break up any pans or layering which should be carried out evenly and To get the very best from the playing
may be present within the top 100mm accurately all over the pitch to achieve surface, new pitch preparation should
of the pitch profile. This work also consistent results. As work progresses it be carried out each year. In reality,
serves as the ultimate form of aeration may be necessary to irrigate at this budgetary constraints and other issues,
as it redistributes particles around the stage to maintain a degree of moisture such as restricted timescale, may
profile and allows any anaerobic in the immediate surface, preventing the prevent it. From my experience of
conditions to become oxygenated. separation of fibres. Fines in the working across the UK and in Europe, it
Should any soil conditioners, such as rootzone can also find there way onto should be a major consideration for any
seaweed or granulated lime stone and the surface as a dusty residue if club who want to maximise both pitch
irrigation is not available, causing performance and profitability.