We often talk about synthetic turf as being a viable alternative to natural grass because of the climate in Western Australia. But when it comes to sports, even in countries where the climate is well-suited to growing lush, green grass – the use of synthetic turf is becoming more and more common.
Two major reasons for the switch to synthetic grass in sports are durability and maintenance – regardless of the climate.
Ask the groundsman at your local sports venue how to keep a top quality sports turf in premium condition and chances are you will not get a short answer. Whether it is soccer, tennis, cricket, bowls, golf or countless other sports that depend on a decent surface, the amount of work that goes into maintaining the turf is considerable.
Natural grass turf usually needs to have ongoing maintenance on a near daily basis to ensure that it is playable week in, week out. On top of that, most grounds keepers have to undertake seasonal work to prevent deterioration. It is a real science to know how to look after the turf – using the correct amount of fertilisers, water and infill as well as knowing the right times to mow and carry out countless other tasks – which most of us would not even think about.
Obviously, that kind of expertise costs a lot of money. On the other hand, the latest technology in artificial turf, which requires far less maintenance and being far less susceptible to the extremes of the weather, soon starts to save councils and clubs.
Of course, sports surfaces also take a serious pounding too. They take perhaps more stress than any other type of turf and therein lies another vital benefit of synthetic grass – it stands up to the rigours of dozens of feet twisting, turning, jumping and landing on a near constant basis, without losing performance or quality.
It is not surprising that Australian councils and sports clubs are turning to synthetic turf when you consider the scarcity of water and the intensity of sunlight. Nonetheless, it is surprising perhaps that we are following in the footsteps of those in the USA and Europe. The States have certainly been leading the way in synthetic sports turf for many years but the trend is really growing in Europe recently.
Many of the top soccer clubs in Europe now have the latest generation of artificial pitches including those in Italy’s Serie A competition. Synthetic turf has also been used in competitive international matches in Europe.
In England, ‘plastic pitches’ were ridiculed until recently, with long memories of a handful of professional football clubs using artificial turf that’s light years away from the world’s current crop of premium synthetic sports pitches.
Even though the temperate climatic conditions are ideal for growing grass in the UK, many municipal pitches have turned to synthetic grass because of reduced maintenance costs and the increased usability (synthetic pitches don’t get worn out or suffer from muddy, unplayable, patches after prolonged wet weather conditions).
In addition to public facilities, the clamour for artificial turf pitches is growing amongst professional clubs in England too. Football League clubs Wycombe Wanderers and Accrington Stanley have voiced a desire to install the latest generation of artificial turf and former Wales international Mark Hughes has also voiced his support, having seen such pitches used first hand.
With top clubs and sports facilities catering for the masses in Europe turning to synthetic grass in numbers then you can expect more of the same in Australia.