New for old synthetic in Keighley
By David Markham
Footballers in Keighley are enjoying the benefits one of the most up to date pitches thanks to a £295,000 investment by their local authority - Bradford Metropolitan Council.
The 20-year-old artificial pitch it replaced was similar to the sand based surfaces that were tried by Football League clubs, including QPR, Luton, Preston and Oldham in the 1980s. They proved to be unpopular with players and supporters because of the hard surface and subsequent high bounce and they were scrapped after being banned by the league.
The new pitch was laid by Loughborough based firm Polytan Sports Surfaces (UK) Ltd after the council received a £911,000 grant from the Football Foundation. The pitch cost £295,000 and the council were also able to build to build 18 new changing rooms at Marley where former Blackburn Rovers, Bradford City and Halifax Town defender Mick Wood is in charge of a football development plan.
Sales director Martin Beacon said: "It took three weeks to take up the old surface, put in a new shock pad and lay the turf. It is a football specific surface, incorporating a high pile carpet with a sand and rubber infill.
"We fill the surface with rubber granules, re-cycled from lorry tyres, which makes it environmentally friendly. We use sand at the bottom, partly for drainage but also to give additional weight. This type of surface has been used in Europe for four to five years, but in this country for only three to four years.
"In the past the old sand fill pitches didn't lend themselves to football. We have tried to simulate a good natural turf surface. The sand and rubber filled pitch is more user friendly and able to take a studded boot.
"Third Generation pitches are more acceptable for football. UEFA have helped to finance six similar pitches using different surfaces for a test period which gives the football industry the opportunity to evaluaute them in a professional enviroment. We have installed a pitch in FC Salzburg in Austria.
"At the end of the period they will sanction the types of system they want to go with and we will be part of that as our systems meet all the requirements of UEFA and FIFA. UEFA have now confirmed that competitions can be played on synthetic turf.
"The first artificial pitches for football at Luton, Oldham, Preston and QPR in the 1980s were not ideal and they were so unpopular that they set back any further development for a number of years due to the ban imposed by the FA.
"However, artificial football surfaces have come back in favour to a certain degree in that professional clubs use them for training facilities and for their football academies.
"The French Football Centre of Excellence has used artificial pitches for ten years and I am sure this facility has played a big part in the development of French football and contributed to them being World and European champions. Their latest pitches are third generation."
Polytan are a UK subsidiary of a German parent company. Martin said: "We have been manufacturing and installing artificial surfaces for 30 years. We installed the first of these pitches eight or ten years ago but you have got to continue research. I think it is unlikely that football authorities will not adopt artificial surfaces. The Premiership clubs have synthetic training and academy pitches but the main advantage of artificial surfaces lies with the lower division clubs and non-league clubs.
"Football grounds are generally huge pieces of real estate that are under used, but with artificial pitches they can make maximum use of their ground for training and attract outside users which will help the local community and bring in much needed revenue for the football club.
"Maintenance is important for this type of pitch. We advise that they need brushing on a regular basis probably after every 25 hours of use to keep them in tip top condition, which roughly equates to once a week."
Maintenance can be conducted by the owner with ocassional help from outside maintenance specialists such as Technical Surfaces in Leicester or can be totally out-sourced.