Artificial sports pitches will soon again be dominating the headlines as the outcome is known of the Football League's formal consultation regarding the use of these surfaces for first team football matches.
For the many League and non-League clubs who favour a move towards artificial surfaces, a key consideration will be the on-going maintenance of such facilities. Responsibility for maintenance should be allocated to a dedicated team, be it on-site grounds staff or outsourced to a specialist contractor. The decision as to who exactly will look after an artificial pitch will inevitably be influenced by a club's constraints on time, funds and knowledge, and as a result the maintenance regime will be shaped accordingly.
Of course, it is not just at the professional level that artificial pitches must be maintained to a high standard. From school and community facilities upwards, all artificial surfaces require dedicated maintenance throughout their life, to achieve optimum playing performance, as well helping to ensure a pitch's safety, aesthetics, durability and life expectancy.
Project-managing the full maintenance requirements of an artificial pitch in-house requires a large initial budget in order to purchase a suitable machine to ensure the correct maintenance is applied. This option would be suitable for councils or facility management companies, whose responsibility it is to maintain multiple pitches at a number of sites, but it is important to stress that operator knowledge and experience is a must.
The 'Do It Yourself' option does have its pitfalls, including the hidden costs involved - of labour, of servicing, operating and maintaining the machinery, and of ordering replacement parts when things go wrong. Moreover, certain maintenance tasks, such as specialist deep-cleaning, are only available from dedicated pitch maintenance experts.
An alternative is to hand over full maintenance responsibility to a specialist contractor. On the face of it, this is certainly the most hassle-free way of ensuring that an artificial pitch is maintained correctly, particularly if implemented from day one. However, in reality this is seldom the most economical or practical way to look after an artificial surface. Instead, the most successful method has typically proved to be a combination of in-house and specialist maintenance. Where possible, facility owners should utilise the resources available to them within an on-site grounds team, and they should also look to invest in some suitable machinery to perform everyday maintenance tasks. The more costly, specialist works can then be outsourced to a dedicated maintenance provider, such as Technical Surfaces. Maintenance companies should be able to recommend and supply appropriate equipment to carry out daily and weekly brushing, dragging and raking of your pitch, along with adequate training and demonstrations. This can then be complemented with regular sweeping, vegetation treatments, decompactions, infill top-ups, deep-cleaning and repair works by the maintenance contractor.
In short, there are a number of options to consider when electing who will maintain an artificial sports pitch. Awareness of the maintenance processes required throughout the life of an artificial pitch is essential, and in that respect the support and advice of specialist maintenance contractors can be invaluable. The key point to make is that a successful maintenance programme can, above all, help the many clubs, schools, leisure centres and other facility owners maximise the return on their investment and realise the benefits that can be afforded by an artificial sports pitch.
If you have a synthetic surface and need help or advice on maintenance contact Technical Surfaces on Tel: 08702 400 700 and ask to speak to a Technical Manager.
Pictured above: Responsibility for maintenance should be allocated to a dedicated team, be it on-site grounds staff or outsourced to a specialist contractor (top image), and to ensure that your artificial facility can be enjoyed, please observe the rules (bottom image).