Pitch holding up well at Valley Parade
By David Markham
It has been a difficult few months for Valley Parade Stadium Manager Allan Gilliver.
His pitch is used by First Division Bradford City for eight to nine months of the year in a long English football season, but, for the last two years, there has been no close season because Rugby League World Champions Bradford Bulls have also been using Valley Parade for their Super League matches.
Another complication is that Bradford City were in administration for three months last summer and almost went out of business. This meant that everything Allan wanted to buy for the ground had to be approved by the administrators, who were running the club until a new buyer could be found.
Despite all these problems, Allan is relatively satisfied with the state of his pitch as he prepares for the winter.
He said: "It has been very difficult, especially when there are football and rugby matches on successive days during the long overlaps at the beginning and end of the football and Rugby League seasons.
Sometimes we have had football matches on Saturdays and then have had to prepare for a Rugby League match the following day, which means, of course, putting in the rugby posts and painting new lines. Then, you have change it back again for football.
Also, you don't get the time to do the fancy jobs like edging and there is not enough time to put the divots back properly. There are times when you want to do work on the pitch and you don't get the time.
Then, of course, we try to leave the grass a little bit higher during the summer for rugby.
All in all, the pitch has stood up to its excessive use reasonably well, but we are coming to a period when the grass will stop growing. It is still growing now, but not a lot.
From the start of the Rugby League season in February to next February there will have been 60 matches. You don't get time during the summer to do your normal remedial work because matches are continually being played on the pitch.
Fortunately, there was a three and a half week period during June when we didn't have a rugby match. So, we hollow-tined the pitch to a depth of five to six inches and took away the cores. Then we seeded the pitch and verti-drained it and then top-dressed it with 60 tons of sand. This helps the pitch to drain a lot better. We will probably put 100 tons of sand on the pitch at the end of the football season."
The Bradford Bulls season is coming to an end and the Rugby League club will return to their old home at a partly re-developed Odsal on the other side of the city for next season, which will relieve pressure on the Valley Parade pitch.
However, Bradford City's Reserve side, who have been playing their matches at Odsal during the later stages of the Rugby League season will return to Valley Parade at the end of October, which will mean 12 extra football matches on top of the first team's league and cup games.
Allan said: "It was business as usual during the administration period. When we needed some new equipment we had to go to the administrators.
We have bought a new Dennis G8 60 three in one mower, which cuts, brushes and scarifies. It is an excellent machine. We use different cylinders for different functions.
The condition of the pitch has improved because we have taken out all the thatch. This gives the proper grass the chance to breathe.
Unfortunately, we have a bit of fusarium disease in the grass caused by the humid weather. The high stands don't help either because you don't get enough light on to the pitch. We have been treating the disease with fungicide."