Being awarded FIFA recommended 2* status represents a mark of distinction for a synthetic sports surface, demonstrating it has both a high quality of installation and a commitment to providing a first-rate pitch for players of football at all levels. This in itself is no small achievement, but to pass the rigorous testing process for a second year running is in many ways a far greater accomplishment and one that has recently been bestowed upon the 3rd Generation Ligaturf surface at Saltley Leisure Centre in Birmingham.
Fortunately, the notion of artificial sports facilities as 'maintenance-free' is no longer a viewpoint that is given much credence. Over the last few years, the owners and users of synthetic pitches have seen first-hand the damage that can be caused simply through neglect and a lack of understanding of how to look after their surfaces. Technical Surfaces Ltd, as maintenance specialists, and Polytan Sports Surfaces (UK) Ltd as the installer, have worked hard to instil in all their clients an appreciation of the efforts that are involved in achieving the full potential life of their facility, with outstanding results for Saltley Leisure Centre.
"We have always felt that a well specified pitch that is maintained correctly would retain its 2* status after twelve months' extensive use", explains Andy Shaw of Polytan. Indeed, the work ethic displayed by Centre manager John Carrigan and his team has played a vital part in the renewal of this prestigious accreditation.
Upon completion of the construction of the facility in 2006, Carrigan liaised extensively with Technical Surfaces to devise a maintenance programme based on anticipated usage: the Centre purchased its own maintenance equipment from Technical Surfaces to conduct regular in-house brushing, sweeping and debris clearance.
Technical Surfaces complemented this with a maintenance regime using specialist machinery to first de-compact the upper reaches of the surface and thereafter to clean the upper 6 to 8mm of the surface, effectively removing compaction whilst also allowing microscopic contamination particles to be eliminated, thus improving the playing and draining characteristics of the pitch.
Months of continued good practice and diligence from all parties were well rewarded when, on 15th October 2007, FIFA officially announced that Saltley had passed the stringent checks and analyses - including assessments of ball roll and rebound, shock absorption, stud slide and deceleration and skin/surface friction - and the pitch was still of a standard high enough to host UEFA Champions League matches and FIFA final round competitions.
In line with standard procedure, Technical Surfaces has continued to monitor both its own efforts and those of the centre staff. Company Director, Jonathan Gunn, has been involved from the outset, keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings, and he firmly believes that this second endorsement from FIFA vindicates the whole philosophy around which Technical Surfaces is based.
"This is at the very core of our ethos, the concept of clients carrying out continued in-house maintenance that is supported by our own regular and specialist works. For the pitch at Saltley to be awarded 2* status for a second time confirms that expert maintenance, coupled with a conscientious owner, can be a successful recipe for a long-lasting, quality synthetic sports surface. Our Technical Managers spend considerable time detailing to clients the importance of a holistic maintenance programme, and our site inspections and surface reports are specifically designed to assist them every step of the way. This is a terrific achievement not only for Polytan, signifying the superb installation they carried out, and for John Carrigan and the professional work ethic he has shown, but also for Technical Surfaces and our commitment to maintaining standards."
The synthetic pitch at Saltley is to date the only community-used facility in the UK to have passed its second FIFA 2* test, and with the winning combination of a quality installation, a willing team of in-house staff and the unrivalled maintenance expertise of Technical Surfaces behind it, affiliation with football's international governing body looks set to continue for a long time to come.
For further information, please call 08702 400700 or visit www.technicalsurfaces.co.uk