Pi t ch t echnolog y
Mixing it up
Hybrid technologies strengthen the pitch surface
The millions of sports fans watching their favourite teams are unlikely to give much thought to the grass it’s being played on, but the surface can make a significant difference to the quality of play. Tom Walker looks at the rise of hybrid pitches and their impact on sport
ybrid sports pitches are now
more stable and better to play football on.
the first sports-specific hybrid pitch –
the playing surface of choice
It makes the pitch look better too.”
called GrassMaster – was designed for publicly-owned playing fields.
in professional football. Every English Premier League club
GRASSROOTS TO ELITE
has a hybrid surface and they
While hybrids are now omnipresent across
developed to allow for more playing
are increasingly being used by
“The GrassMaster was originally
elite stadiums and clubs, they weren’t
hours on municipal fields and pitches,”
European teams – Barcelona, Real Madrid
initially targeted at elite users. Developed
says Marc Vercammen, vice president at
and Borussia Dortmund are among the top
by Dutch carpet specialist Desso in 1992,
Tarkett Sports – a multinational company that acquired Desso in 2015.
teams to have joined the hybrid revolution. Rugby too, has adopted the technology.
“If you want a natural pitch to remain
Out of the Six Nation stadiums, only Italy’s
at a decent playing quality, you need to
Stadio Olimpico in Rome doesn’t have a
restrict the hours of play on it. Back then, a
hybrid playing surface installed.
natural pitch could take around 250 hours of play a year – or five hours a week.
The principle of a hybrid pitch is simple. A small amount of synthetic,
“The introduction of GrassMaster
twisted yarn is stitched into a
quadrupled the amount of playing
traditional, natural grass pitch in
time to around 1,000 hours a year
order to reinforce it. As the grass
while still offering a good quality
grows, it intertwines with the
surface – thanks to the hybrid
synthetic fabric, strengthening the
system being able to take more
surface and improving stability. The
punishment. It quickly became very
yarn also speeds up the recovery of
popular with public pitch owners.”
the grass sward, allows better drainage
For a while, GrassMaster was first choice
and increases durability – enabling the
for grassroots operators looking to increase
pitches to be used more frequently.
pitch usage. It wasn’t until the emergence
Paul Burgess, grounds manager at
of 3G synthetic products, which allow near
Real Madrid, sums up the benefits: “The
Tarkett’s Marc Vercammen says
24-7 usage, that GrassMaster started to lose
artificial grass makes the pitch stronger,
GrassMaster has changed the industry
some market share within the public sector.
Issue 133 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017