Sports Management issue 133

Page 62

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


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.