Throughout the North of England, the weather has a reputation of being changeable and unpredictable. Outdoor sports suffer due to these conditions as grass football pitches flood and must be closed for the safety of the players. To combat this, many contractors design and construct artificial sports pitches. All aspects of the sports pitch construction are incorporated into their work including drainage, base works, shockpad installation, fencing and floodlighting. Many contractors are pioneers in the world of 3G football pitch construction, using the latest innovations in technology to optimise the experience of players on the pitch. But it was not always like this.
Artificial football pitch design began during the 1980s with ‘plastic pitches’ starting to replace the traditional football fields. The surface was considered too ‘bouncy’ for the players to have an authentic game experience. However, for early artificial football pitch design, the more serious concern was the safety of the players. The unforgiving texture of the grass burned the skin and ultimately synthetic pitches were banned in 1988.
Today, the third generation (3G) of artificial sports pitch construction uses sand or rubber granules among the artificial grass fibres to create a realistic texture while also absorbing the impact of the players. The artificial turf can be laid on top of a stone base, making the surface far stronger and last much longer than those intended for professional and semi-professional use. Sports pitch construction for more high-profile teams with bigger budgets includes laying the turf on top of tarmac, already mounted onto a stone base. This makes the pitch more suitable to flexible playing conditions and varying skill levels among the team. The new ground surface is more durable to damage caused by football spikes and can be used all year round without the need for costly maintenance while also preventing accidents due to players slipping. Due to the economic benefits, 3G football pitch construction has become very popular among players and clubs alike and artificial football pitch design is becoming the norm, starting to overtake its grass ancestor as the playing field of choice among sports teams.
Despite the universal appeal of 3G football pitches, a new contender of Hybrid Sports pitches has emerged. These build upon the innovative artificial football pitch design by combining natural grass fibres and synthetic fibres to produce a multifunctional area, suitable for a wide variety of sports, including football, rugby and golf to name a few. Unlike the method of 3G football pitch construction, where synthetic fibres are woven into a backing material, the synthetic fibres are instead injected into natural grass and conditioned to bind to the natural grass roots. Though there are varied opinions on which is the superior method of sports pitch construction, Hybrid pitches are favoured by many significant football clubs such as Wembley and Manchester United.
There are many deciding factors on whether a club should choose to invest in 3G football pitch construction. The initial cost of installing a hybrid pitch is significantly higher but overall, they require less maintenance than other varieties of artificial football pitch design. However, the upkeep requires highly skilled and knowledgeable groundsmen, making the ongoing cost of a Hybrid pitch exceed that of a fully synthetic pitch. It is widely acknowledged that a Hybrid pitch will give a professional team the most authentic playing experience but ultimately, the synthetic pitch has more minimal maintenance costs and can be used more frequently by multiple teams and for various different events. This makes an artificial football pitch a far more economical choice for smaller teams and local clubs. Contractors work with professional and non-professional teams alike and create custom pitch designs to suit the needs and budget of the club while also considering the environmental impact and long-term cost of maintenance. While the history of artificial sports pitch construction has been turbulent at times, the current innovations in design and technology promise that the players of the future will never have a football game cancelled because of the British weather again.