By Eric O’Donnell
THE IMPACT OF LOCKDOWN
An artificial pitch needs to be regularly maintained to keep it in a safe and acceptable condition for
use. Regular brushing and cleaning ensure the playing surface offers the best performance and
safety for users.
The current Covid-19 restrictions have meant the vast majority of facilities have
been closed to users for many months. This could have implications when users are allowed back
onto the pitch to commence games. Surely, the pitch will be fine for use, I hear you say. But the lack
of use may have resulted in a build-up of vegetation, animal activity, other contamination to the
surface – or worse still -vandalism. This could mean that, as a minimum, a deep brush will be
But worse still, an intensive clean could be needed. These types of maintenance activities
could be carried out in-house or devolved to a third-party specialist maintenance company. But one
thing is certain – you must check the playing surface prior to allowing users back in the facility.
A simple check-list approach will flag up most potential issues which need to be addressed. Here are
some examples of the questions you will need to address.
Is the infill uneven and pile flat?
Is there animal activity on the playing surface such as birds or foxes, etc?
Is the infill low in the turf?
Are the goals are broken?
Did someone burn the turf in the goalmouth?
“A 3G pitch receiving 40 hours per week will need on average 2 hours brushing every week.”
GET READY FOR OPENING
There are many reasons why you should start getting ready now for ease of restrictions. Start
planning. If you need to effect repairs, order equipment, or hire an outside agency to perform the
maintenance, expect the capacity will be limited in the network. Leaving work to last minute risks
getting left at the back of the queue. If you perform your own maintenance, then check the plant
and brushes you have are up to the job? If you need to order chemicals, then check what is suitable
for application on your artificial pitch because not all are compatible.
What do you need to do right now?
Drag Brushing of a synthetic pitch is the main maintenance operation for most artificial pitches. 3G surfaces should be brushed and decompacted frequently, aligned to the use of the pitch. Where compaction has been identified, then the use of tines can be considered to loosen infill and return the infill to the correct levels. All other artificial pitch surfaces should be, as a minimum, brushed. As the facility has been closed for some time, the priority here is to clean the surface and get it ready for play.
The lockdown may have resulted in an increase in the formation of moss, weed and algae growth. As
we were in lockdown during spring, a great deal of blooms, leaf covers, and young leaves have been
shedding and adding to the level of contamination.
Manual removal of this type of contamination is probably necessary to be effective, with some localised weed suppression measures added, like the application of chemicals.
At this stage there may need a number of applications to get the vegetation under control. In extreme circumstances, the advice of a specialist should be sought.
Your facility may require deep brushing and intensive maintenance with specialist equipment. In this
case we recommend you engage a specialist company to carry out this service for you.
Pitches which have not been used for a long period of time can appear to be lacking infill. A simple check on the level of infill can be done to determine free pile height against manufacturers
If you do not know how to do this, please check with a specialist. Topping up infill is not something we recommend doing without the assistance of a specialist, as incorrectly applied infill can bury the pile and affect the play and look of your playing surface.
Correct infill levels protect your asset and it is an important aspect of maintenance.
Removing unwanted contamination from birds and animals is a priority as these could increase the
risk of infections occurring from player/surface interface, especially if associated with skin injuries.
Once cleaned, it is recommended that a disinfectant is applied to the area of the entire pitch.
Whilst we have been on lockdown it does not mean that vandalism is not possible. The main issues
are cuts and burns in the turf, goal structure damage and damage to fencing. Exceptionally, vehicles
could have been brought onto the playing surface. Clearly essential repairs may need to be carried
out purely from a safety standpoint.
All issues with the playing surface should be referred back
through your supplier as there may be warranty implications if you do not.
It is very unlikely that a period of inactivity on your 3G pitch will result in an invalid warranty. We
have checked with a number of manufacturers and the answer we have received is that lack of use
will not result in a cancellation of your warranty. You need to check this with you supplier, however.
Another important check is when you apply disinfectant to your pitch. You must clear this with your
supplier as some chemicals can damage fibers and/or the backing of your turf.
Article compiled by Eric O’Donnell of SportsLabs UK Ltd
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