30 Jul Former Groundsman of the Year Says Plastic is Fantastic
The idea of a man who made a living looking after grass surfaces for a football club now being more than happy with artificial grass in his own garden may sound crazy, but that’s the reality for Oxford United’s former award-winning groundsman.
Mick Moore, now retired, decided that an artificial lawn in his garden was the way forward. The main reason for exchanging real grass for the artificial variety was to stop returning from extended periods away at his Tenerife second home to overgrown grass.
Artificial grass first became popular when football clubs started installing it to provide all-weather pitches. However, it did not take long for home-owners to discover its advantages. Improvements in artificial grass technology means that we may start to see it in more football clubs again.
The pitch of the future
Moore believes that artificial grass is definitely the way ahead with the standard of surface improving all the time. He has been very impressed with non-league Oxford City’s artificial grass training pitches, and feels that it would make sense for all non-league football to be played on this type of surface.
Keeping traditional grass playing surfaces in good condition is a labour intensive and expensive undertaking. There’s also times when poor weather causes postponements or damage to the pitch – for example, when a wet surface becomes churned up. Oxford City clearly agree: they are planning to replace their grass surface with an artificial pitch.
Groundsmen face the same challenges as home-owners with children and pets – in the autumn and winter, the grass is quickly ruined, leaving muddy patches that cannot recover until spring.
Former artificial pitches
Many football supporters remember some clubs who used artificial pitches some years ago – clubs such as Luton Town, Queens Park Rangers and Oldham Athletic used a ‘plastic pitch’ as they were dubbed at the time. The idea that football could be played at times when games might be cancelled if the pitch was real grass appealed as did the reduced maintenance costs.
The only problem was the drastic difference between playing on these earlier technology surfaces compared to grass – on which most football matches were played. Some former players look back less than fondly on these surfaces – friction burns from making sliding tackles on the older artificial surfaces were a common hazard for footballers of that time.
It’s fair to say the technology has moved on considerably since those days.
Artificial grass at Wembley
When the new Wembley stadium opened in 2007, the big problem was the pitch – it simply couldn’t stand up to the rigours of the various activities (not just football) the stadium hosted. It was relaid several times to the point where the management were reconciled to relaying the pitch three or four times a year at a cost of around £100,000 each time.
This problem was solved when Wembley had a part-artificial grass fibre system installed. This system, called Desso GrassMaster, is a surface combining natural grass with artificial fibres that make up around 3% of the overall surface.
The natural roots intertwine with the artificial fibres to help bind the surface, strengthen it, make for good drainage and provide a true surface. Due to the cost of the new Wembley and the desire to utilise it, many events are held there so the pitch needs to recover quickly – another benefit of the part-artificial surface.
It’s a surface that was already in use at another new North London stadium – Arsenal F.C.’s Emirates Stadium opened a year before Wembley in 2006, and owes its bowling green-like surface in no small part to the Desso pitch.
More sports grounds
A long list of UK football grounds use what could be classed as part-artificial surfaces, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. European clubs are also making the change – Bayern Munich and Milan now use part-artificial pitches. Other sports such as rugby and American football have stadia incorporating these types of part-artificial surfaces along with Wembley and the Emirates Stadium.
There’s no doubt that artificial surfaces have improved in leaps and bounds over the years, and the hybrid surfaces in use at Wembley and elsewhere make for pitches that can recover and stay in pristine condition for longer, and can stand up to heavy usage. Full artificial surfaces are also on the rise. Along with the case above of non-league clubs, such as Oxford City, fully artificial surfaces are used extensively on many club training fields.
In the home, artificial grass is also improving all the time, with more realistic products, that both look and feel like real grass. Why not follow in the footsteps of Oxford United’s groundsman and install artificial grass in your garden?