The trying task of creating and maintaining a football pitch
It is fair to say that the only time a football pitch attracts headlines; it is for all the wrong reasons. The mark of a quality surface is one that, unfortunately for all of the grounds staff that work so hard, goes completely unnoticed and unmentioned.
Different conditions require different approaches. Football pitches have to endure twenty two pairs of studded boots raking across at for at least 90 minutes every time players set foot on the pitch – even more frequently if they share the very same pitch with a rugby team. The demands on grounds staff across the country are evident, so how exactly do they manage to stay out of the headlines and maintain such a slick surface at all times?
While the components that surround the pitch may vary from location to location, one factor that largely remains the same is the presence of grass itself. An exception to the rule is top-level football pitches, which use a shrewd combination of natural and artificial turf to create a close to flawless surface. Artificial fibres are stitched into the pitch vertically and the natural grass is then sewn over the top, allowing the natural grass to anchor itself to the fibre. The durability and strength that is typically associated with Premier League surfaces is derived from this union of natural and artificial.
A 95% sand to soil composition has all but consigned waterlogged pitches to history. The lop-sided balance of sand to soil dramatically enhances the speed of drainage. Even the heaviest of rainfalls are likely to dissipate rapidly, which is important when thousands of pounds of match revenue are at stake.
A particularly lush, green surface is the result of aggressive fertiliser application. Generally speaking, nitrogen fertiliser is applied annually, usually in May, when nutrient levels are still strong before the onset of light, heat, and absence of rainfall that summer brings. Fertiliser can be applied by a pedestrian spreader or a tractor mounted spreader. If the entirety of the heavy nitrogen fertiliser is applied in one batch, it is vital to properly irrigate the grass immediately after.
The complexity of the irrigation system is largely determined by the scale of investment involved, as well as typical weather conditions. Of course, a premier league football club is going to have a more comprehensive irrigation system than a non-league club. An entry level system will consist of nothing more than a booster pump and a portable sprinkler system, whereas a more advanced solution can be fully automated. Regardless of the method of administration, the main guidelines for irrigating a sports pitch go as follows. Through the drier months of June through September, the surface needs watering at least every three days. Through the rest of the year, the pitch only needs watering on an ad hoc basis.