The Importance of Artificial Pitch Maintenance
PITCH MAINTENANCE IS ESSENTIAL TO KEEP YOUR SPORTS SURFACE IN GOOD CONDITION AND IMPROVE ITS LONG-TERM PERFORMANCE.
In this guide, we’ll give you our top tips on how to maintain your pitch, from 3G surfaces used for rugby and football, to high level water-based hockey pitches.
Keeping your facilities well-maintained will make them last longer and shorten the length of time before you’ll need to resurface your artificial pitch! Proper pitch maintenance can also help you avoid player injuries and flooding or drainage issues in poor weather conditions, as well as generally improving your playing surface to allow those using it to play to the best of their ability.
Although the maintenance requirements are lower compared to a natural grass pitch, no pitch is completely maintenance-free, and there are a number of areas to consider if you want it to function for years to come.
Before you even think about installing a new pitch, you should work with your sports pitch consultant and specialist contractor to ensure it is built in the best position to protect it from the elements. Ideally, your pitch would be situated away from any grassed areas that players, spectators and maintenance teams might need to cross before stepping onto it. This will help to reduce the amount of mud, debris and contaminants coming onto the synthetic surface and prolong the playing quality and lifespan of your pitch.
You can also keep the area around the pitch looking clean and tidy by installing tarmac paths leading to the pitch, landscaping with non-shedding trees, and even installing artificial turf warm-up areas so the pitch doesn’t get covered with mud.
One of the most fundamental aspects of maintaining a pitch is checking on it regularly! Small tasks such as keeping the pitch clear of litter, leaves, twigs, mud, and any unwanted growth, i.e. weeds around the edges, can significantly help your pitch in the long term. This will also improve the visual aesthetic of the pitch and prevent it from looking worn down or dirty.
Another crucial part of pitch maintenance is to ensure that the correct footwear is worn. Wearing the wrong shoes can cause damage to the surface of the pitch, and injury to those wearing them. It is advisable to make sure that all who use the pitch are aware of what the appropriate footwear is, and provide signage to remind them of the rules.
For 3G pitches, this is particularly relevant, as flat-soled shoes and boots can increase the rate of infill compaction and flatten the carpet pile (which we want to keep upright). We advise only wearing moulded or screw-in stud football boots on a 3G field.
Relying on a bi-annual pitch maintenance service will not be sufficient to keep your pitch in good condition. Weekly brushing helps to keep the synthetic fibres upright on both hockey pitches and 3G pitches. On 3G pitches especially, this will help to protect the infill from compaction and further damage to the surface. We recommend using a drag brush behind a tractor for the best results. It’s particularly important to brush over heavy traffic areas such as pitch entrances and goals.
It is important to keep an eye on your pitch’s infill to ensure the levels are not too low (with the exception of water-based hockey pitches, which have no infill). Those small rubber pieces you find in 3G artificial pitches, or the silica sand in hockey pitches, are there to support the fibres and keep them upright. However, over time, some infill will leave the pitch in players’ boots or just from flying about during play or in windy conditions, so you should keep an eye on your infill levels whilst brushing to prevent shortages and surface damage.
Have a walk around your sports pitch whenever you get a chance. Take a look to see if the fibres are bending over in places, or if excess infill is gathering around the edges. This could mean that there are uneven or low levels of infill on the pitch. This often happens in areas such as the goal mouth. If you are unable to do this yourself, hiring an expert company to thoroughly inspect the pitch for any tearing or loosening of any seams, and to top up infill levels if they are running low, will contribute massively to the upkeep of the pitch.
REMOVAL OF MOSS AND ALGAE
The build-up of moss and algae is particularly common in water-based pitches, as naturally the frequent presence of water means that they are far more susceptible to it. This is more likely to occur in cases where the surface suffers from poor airflow, poor sunlight and improper drainage, so it’s a good idea to ensure these needs are met when installing your pitch.
Various treatments are available to eradicate moss and algae, and you might want to consider a deep clean if the pitch becomes dirty over time.
As long as your pitch has a good drainage system, the only weather conditions that could potentially stop you from using it are snow and ice. Heavy snowfall can freeze the fibres and make them brittle, increasing the risk of damage to both the pitch and the players. If this does occur, sometimes the easiest solution is to close the pitch until it thaws and becomes safe to use, but we do appreciate that this can result in cancelled fixtures and bookings, potentially leading to loss of important revenue and customers.
Once the snow has settled on the surface, it is very difficult to move, particularly if it has been left for a day or longer. If it can be moved, then you will have to consider where to stockpile it until it melts, and make sure that the essential rubber or sand infill is not removed in the process!
However, as with many things, prevention is better than a cure: laying Pure Dried Vacuum (PDV) salts on the turf before forecasted snow or ice can help to prevent freezing from happening in the first place, protecting your pitch and reducing your downtime. You should avoid using other products, such as rock salt or grit, because once they dissolve, they could cause contamination and damage to the playing surface. Chemical-based solutions do work, but they can be costly and offer little in the way of residue life.
You should let your teams and players know how important it is to look after a sports pitch! McArdle Sport Tec can install team boot brushes if required to help reduce mud on the pitch. Every pitch we build as standard has an information board erected clearly listing the ‘Dos and Don’ts’, including footwear guidelines, and rules such as no eating & drinking and no dogs on the pitch. This will help ensure that the the pitch is treated with respect.
McArdle Sport Tec recommend that you conduct regular pitch maintenance to ensure that any issues are identified early, prolonging the life of your pitch and keeping the players safe.