Modern multi-use stadia have to combat the harmful effects of increased use and reduced UV levels, without impacting cash flow. While increased numbers of sporting fixtures and non-sporting events has significantly influenced their viability, it has had an adverse effect on their most valuable asset; the turf. However, as there was no organization in existence to provide stadium directors and managers with the expert know-how to tackle these dilemmas, the European Stadium & Safety Managers Association set up the "Pitch Management Expert Group" to provide the answers.
News from the European Stadium & Safety Managers Association
Modern multi-use stadia have to combat the harmful effects of increased usage and reduced UV levels, without impacting cash-flow. While increased numbers of sporting fixtures and non-sporting events has significantly influenced their viability, it has had an adverse effect on their most valuable asset; the turf.
However, as there was no organisation in existence to provide Stadium Directors and Managers with the expert know-how to tackle these dilemmas, the European Stadium & Safety Managers Association (ESSMA) – on Desso GrassMaster’s suggestion – set up the ‘Pitch Management Expert Group’ to provide the answers to these questions.
Two-years on and the Expert Group is now responsible for assisting stadia worldwide.
The integration of Head Grounds Managers within the ESSMA network has added to its achievements, as the Expert Group’s Chairman, Jonathan Calderwood, explains: “Our main goals are knowledge-exchange and expertise, and to increase the level of pitch management across Europe, which benefits the game and increases revenue through non-sporting events.”
ESSMA Managing Director, Dimitri Huygen, continues: “The close relationship between our Stadium Partners has resulted in the compilation of a vast amount of knowledge from working with state-of-the-art stadiums.”
Offering a tailored, turnkey solution, stadia utilising the services of the Expert Group can be secure in the knowledge that increased usage will not adversely affect their playing field or their bottom-line.
The Expert Group’s huge success has become evident by the large numbers having utilised their services, including FIFA World Cup stadiums in South Africa, as Kevin Gramoney, Head Groundsman at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, confirms: “Using Terraplas, Desso GrassMaster and SGL, allowed us to implement and witness valuable changes, including: increased play on the pitch; and increased numbers of concerts… The job of a groundsman has become commercial, coping with the demands of a fast-paced economy in which stadiums need to maximise revenue generation. Moses Mabhida Stadium is very popular and a ‘lush green pitch’ is one of many factors that attract customers. You are not judged just on ‘how good your pitch looks’ but by ‘how good your pitch looks and plays after a game or event’. Terraplas, Desso GrassMaster and SGL are highly professional and help us maintain international standards.”
Desso GrassMaster’s Yves de Cocker, says: “Customers buy our technology and our network of stadium managers, head groundsmen, etc. They receive state-of-the-art technology and direct access to the Group, with its know-how and experience.”
Terraplas’ Pierre Debleme adds: “The Group offers stadiums the opportunity to learn about best-practices for optimal turf management and care programmes from those ranked No.1 in their field. Working together, we determine which technology and pitch design is best for the clients’ specific needs to ensure an optimal end product.”
SGL’s Frank van Beusekom says: “SGL is constantly looking at ways to improve the quality, products and services, and ESSMA offers us another way to connect with those at the top of the industry and together strive for improvement.”
With an ever-expanding portfolio, including England’s Wembley National Stadium and EURO 2012 stadiums in Ukraine, the Group is now the ‘go-to’ organisation for stadia worldwide.
Alexander Atamanenko, CEO of Donbass Arena outlines: “FC Shakhtar Donetsk practices high-speed, technical football, which means the main goal for Donbass Arena is to provide a quality pitch that can meet this requirement throughout the year, in spite of the load placed on it from a packed football calendar and other events. This is quite a challenge considering the continental climate, which places considerable stress on the pitch surface – temperatures can reach as low as -25˚C during the winter and in the summer temperatures rise up to 38˚C in the shade.
“To achieve our main goal of ensuring the highest pitch quality, we focus on global advances in engineering solutions (aeration systems, pitch-heating etc) and best practice technologies. The hybrid Desso GrassMaster technology is installed on our pitch and we use the SGL Concept for grass-growth stimulation. During non-football related events and concerts we use Terraplas’ pitch protection cover. Thanks to these technologies, our pitch is maintained to the highest level, complying with the demands of the home team and providing opportunities to maximise commercial events.”
Lee Jackson, Head Groundsman at Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium, concurs: “The Desso system ensures we have a stable pitch surface year-round, regardless of how much grass cover we have at any time and in my opinion is unrivalled in natural grass stabilisation. Having this in conjunction with Terraplas’ Turf Protection system, terratrak plus, means we have a true and level surface to work with post concert; this is essential given the reduced window we work to in comparison to other similar venues. terratrak also means heavy cranes and articulated lorries can move around the pitch with no issues regarding weight loadings. The shortened pitch establishment window of around 7 weeks sees the use of our SGL light rigs from September to March, this helps us ‘play catch up’ with grass cover in the early part of the season and helps maintain the pitch through the cold dark winter months.”
And so does Arsenal FC’s Head Groundsman, Paul Ashcroft: “Managing the Emirates Stadium playing surface provides us with many challenges regarding the different types of usage. Working alongside Terraplas, Desso and SGL gives Arsenal confidence that we can still provide a quality playing surface with the current event schedule.”
The Group’s impressive track record of providing multi-use stadia with premium quality playing surfaces year-round for high-level sporting events, together with the tools to retain this high-quality, all while being multi-functional, results in not only a healthy pitch but also a healthy return on investment.
ESSMA’s Pitch Management Expert Group was founded in 2011 and consists of Jonathan Calderwood (Aston Villa), Lee Jackson (Manchester City), Claude Cudey (LFP), Sebastien Breuing (VfL Bochum), Stuart Wilson (Croke Park), Maxim Kobzin (Donbass Arena) and Stadium Partners EVERRIS, CampeyImants, Desso GrassMaster, SGL and Terraplas.