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fcbusiness 53 FOOTBALL TURF ▶ at the lower level will come round again to the idea of using artificial pitches, and quickly too, because of the financial pressures they are under. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few seasons, between 30% and 40% of the sides in League One and below were playing on 3G surfaces.” Booth does counsel though that any club considering the switch does need to be fully informed about the costs of installing such a surface. “The latest ones have probably got a 10-year lifespan, and then you’d need to spend £100,000 to get rid of the old surface, and another £150,000 to replace the ‘carpet’. Even then, unless you have the surface properly and regularly maintained, it won’t last so long,” he says. “I’ve looked at many carpet pitches right across the UK, and I’d say a majority are below par after around seven years, because the maintenance hasn’t been correct. When those pitches are played on, the fibres fold over, so you are then playing on the side of the fibres, which reduces the lifespan. “The hybrid pitches are very good, only between 3% to 6% of artificial fibres are stitched in to support the natural turf, but again, you’re looking at between £600,000 and £700,000 to install one, and probably £40,000 a year to maintain the surface.” The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) underlines Booth’s comments about players’ preferences, by remaining opposed to the use of synthetic surfaces. Assistant Chief Executive Simon Barker says feedback from members at all levels of the league structure indicates a clear desire to continue playing on grass. Barker and his colleagues have studied research suggesting the likelihood of injury varies little between grass and synthetic, but point out that such studies have only considered short-term pitch use. “Our members prefer to play on grass, and we are guided by their views. In the absence of any data about the potential long-term impact of using 3G surfaces, we believe we must continue to protect players’ health,” he says. “It’s true there has been significant progress in the quality of synthetic surfaces since the early experiments, but equally, there has been a great deal of progress in the ways in which grass surfaces are installed and maintained. ”We’re always open to seeing new research and analysis, but at the moment we do not see anything to suggest that we need to change our view on this issue, or that our members are changing their views.” THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE FOR THE FOOTBALL INDUSTRY Pitch Maintenance Essential Synthetic pitches may always look immaculate to the casual eye, but they require regular maintenance to stay at their best, according to Tom Bradley, of Bradleys Surfacing Systems. He’s been involved in the industry since 2000, and after acquiring experience in the UK and overseas, he helped establish the family business. “We tell everyone we work with, these surfaces are low- maintenance, but they definitely are not ‘no maintenance,” admits Tom. “You need to prevent the pitch from ‘compacting’, it also needs to be cleaned, not simply swept. There’s a process called ‘drag-brushing’ which helps, but for the best results, you also need to have them deep-cleaned and treated for moss and algae.” Around 85% of the company’s business comes from local authorities and schools, who after several years of austerity are eager to use sports pitches which can take much heavier use than grass. “The evolution which pitch manufacturers have brought to the industry has been remarkable,” says Tom. “It’s not just in the bases, or in the fibres, but in the way these surfaces drain. The latest generation of surfaces are also very easy to slide on. “The 3G pitches feature what we call ‘low slide resistance’, so players don’t suffer abrasions or bruises if they tackle an opponent or fall. You can see why local authorities find them so appealing in terms of revenue. “If you install a pitch correctly and maintain it properly, you could generate as much as £160,000 a year by hiring it out, and the running costs are lower than a grass pitch.” Web: www.surfacingsystems.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: 07810 222 499 fcbusiness.co.uk | MARCH 2015