The new Effective Maintenance of 3G Pitches training course leads the way in raising awareness of the demands of 3G pitch maintenance
The time, resource and cost involved in investing in a 3G synthetic football pitch is considerable; spending £500,000 or so on such a facility does certainly justify ensuring that it provides an enduring and safe surface. Indeed, effective maintenance will extend the period needed for carpet replacement and, at £250,000 or more for a carpet that alone makes effective maintenance a wise move.
A key message of the new Effective Maintenance of 3G Pitches’ course – which has been developed by the Grounds Management Association (GMA) in partnership with Replay Maintenance and Redexim Charterhouse, including guidance from Alan Ferguson at St George's Park (see pages 14 to 18) and international synthetics expert, Alistair Cox – is to address the “common misconception that FTPs [Football Turf Pitches] are maintenance-free; this is definitely not the case. An FTP is expensive and to prolong its lifespan careful maintenance will be required.” (The Football Foundation’s Guide to Developing Third Generation Football Turf Pitches, 2013).
A balanced approach
Understanding how all this fits together, and to ensure the effective use of available resources, is where the course comes into its own. The course covers everything that ground staff need to know and, over 4.5 hours, is delivered in an engaging and impartial manner. The course also provides a balanced approach to the benefits and limitations of maintenance activities, as well as how synthetic surfaces can be integral to managing pitch schedules. A section of the course also dispels the mystery of 4G surfaces.
Included in the key messages and points for discussion are the impact of contaminated infill material; dealing with bodily fluids which might contaminate a surface; the different types of carpet (historical and current); and the different types of performance testing and the need for routine testing. A particular emphasis is on effective maintenance and ensuring appropriate records of activities and performance test results are carried out.
Infill contamination is a leading cause of the deterioration of pitch playing performance - in particular increasing hardness and reducing both traction and surface drainage, especially where pore spaces at the base of the carpet become clogged up.
Dealing with contamination from bodily fluids can cause much debate, though in practice a simple and cheap spill kit - such as for blood contamination from grazes and minor cuts - can prove adequate.
Newer synthetic carpets are much advanced from earlier types: modern fibres are typically made from polyethylene which provides a much softer surface and is less demanding on players’ legs when compared with earlier carpets, although the heat impact of reflected solar radiation can increase fatigue significantly.
With the Women's World Cup in Canada having taken place on 3G pitches, some interesting issues have already arisen from the competition, the most prominent being the effects of heat from very high temperatures generated by the response of the synthetic material to solar radiation. The problems of elevated surface temperatures were reported back in 2007 in the Journal of Turfgrass and Sports Surface Science (Vol 83), with surface temperature differences between a green artificial surface and natural turf grass surface (which provided a much cooler and consistent temperature and which the GMA considers provides the best all-round playing experience) varying from 15C to 40C. While this research was conducted in Las Vegas, “even cities with cooler air temperatures might need to address the potential risks associated with elevated surface temperatures of artificial grass”.
When planning maintenance, it is important to consider the standard of performance which is to be continually achieved from the playing surface, the amount and type of weekly usage, as well as the type of carpet used. As a general guide, 10 hours’ of usage will require one hour of routine maintenance. However, the actual weekly maintenance input for a synthetic pitch might typically range between four and 17 hours. (‘Synthetic Turf Study in Europe, 2012’, KPMG).
Keeping documented records of what takes place on a pitch it confirms what has been done, allows for budget planning and control, complies with funding requirements (where applicable) and can assist in mitigating compensation claims, especially spurious ones.
The correct maintenance and deployment of non-socketed goalposts is an area that is relatively easy to comply with. However, complacency can creep in and "several serious injuries and sadly even fatalities have occurred in recent years as a result of unsafe or incorrect use of goalposts” (The FA Guide to 3G football turf pitch design principles and layouts’, 2013).
If you are interested in learning how to effectively maintain 3G pitches, the GMA and its partners are delivering a number of courses during July and August. Please check our website (www.thegma.org.uk) for dates, venues and fees.
Chris Gray is head of education at the GMA.
Partners in 3G excellence
Over a decade ago Redexim Charterhouse teamed up with industry experts to develop a range of artificial surface maintenance equipment and today there are Redexim models to suit all applications – from a light surface brush to a full deep clean, with product certification by the Synthetic Turf Council. For example, the Verti-Clean will pick up surface debris with a rotating brush, powered by ground wheels, and throw it onto a vibrating sieve. The sieve filters the infill material back onto the playing surface while retaining the debris in a lightweight hopper that can easily be removed for emptying. A PTO-driven version makes for easier removal of larger amounts of dirt, debris and detritus as the rotary speed of the brush can be varied.
Replay Maintenance is at the forefront of every type of synthetic turf maintenance, employing a range of specialist machines, processes and techniques to improve porosity, enhance playing performance and recover player comfort. The Replay Revive procedure removes contaminants and reduces compaction. First, all large debris that has been left to decompose on the surface, to inhibit drainage, is removed. A self-propelled rotary brush unit then penetrates the surface to a defined depth to lift and filter the infill. The integral turbine vacuum extracts the fine contaminates before a rear-mounted, hydraulically-controlled brush passes over the surface to redistribute the infill.