Innovation was the buzzword
by TurfPro Editor, Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR
Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR

With many companies embracing the new technologies at SALTEX last week, battery power, hybrid mowers and robotics were the talk of the show.


Click here to read the Editor's Blog

I particularly enjoyed attending this year’s SALTEX. There seemed to be more optimism in the industry and in my new role as editor of TurfPro, I was excited to meet many new and existing clients.

Innovation was the buzzword of the show, with many companies embracing the new technologies coming on line. Battery power, hybrid mowers and robotics were the talk of the show. My first invitation of the day was attending the Intelligent Marking press event featuring a Danish company promoting their enhanced Intelligent One (10) line marking machine and Prostripe Paint.


Intelligent One

One of the unique features of this product is the robot’s accuracy. The machine can be operated without a costly annual subscription and without cellular or real time kinematic (RTK) connectivity and coverage from their integral, optional base station.

I am amazed at how many new line marking devices we now have on offer in the industry. Fleet Line Markers Ltd, with over 60 years working experience in our industry, were also on hand to demonstrate their two laser-guided line marking machines and range of paints.


Ian Courage on the Fleet stand

I was particularly interested in their new MAQA line marking system which uses GNSS technology to reduce the time it takes to initial mark by a massive 75%! They also launched a new paint storage system called COG, enabling end users the ability to recycle and reuse refilled paint containers on their machines.

I will no doubt need to catch up with all the line marking companies and perhaps undertake a few field trials and report on the advances of line marking technologies.


Rigby Taylor

Walking around the show I could not help but notice the number of robotic products we now have on offer, with many companies embracing and perusing this growing trend. Large and small they come in all sorts of configurations. We now have robotic mowers employed to cut sports pitches, local authority parks and open spaces, private estates and golf courses. And the good news is the prices are coming down with the advancement of technology and the fact that more end users are considering the use of these devices.

Better battery life, safety controls, cutting quality and reliability have enabled these robotic mowers to become more efficient, added to which they do save labour time - thus making the cost of these machines more appealing.


STIHL stand

Whilst on the subject of batteries, there is no doubt that the technology has moved on in leaps and bounds in recent years, making these products more appealing. With the added bonus of longer run times, noise reduction and less vibration, leading companies like STIHL, Husqvarna, Pellenc, EGO, Club Cadet, Toro, John Deere, Dennis and many more are now investing in and developing battery powered products.


Ego mowers

For me another innovation that has taken on new opportunities has been the use of artificial fibres to reinforce soil profiles. For many years we have seen Desso pitches being installed at many professional clubs that have contributed to exceptional playing surfaces. One company, SIS / Grass, has further developed the product and has now successfully sown these fibres into other sports surfaces such as golf, tennis, rugby, and latterly cricket. Having seen for myself the many advantages and the reduction in wear these reinforced pitches bring, they will no doubt be increasingly used in the coming years. There is a great opportunity to get these systems into grass roots level facilities - it just requires sorting out cost implications and the education and resources to manage these systems.

Their use in cricket is amazing. Having seen for myself the trials being conducted at Loughborough University and listening to comments made by some of the leading county cricket groundsmen who now have them sown into some of their practice net areas, there is overwhelming evidence that they help prolong the durability of the playing surface.
It was also nice to catch up with Dennis mowers to find out how well their new PR Rotary 34R mowers are being received by the industry. Sales have been very good with over 70 machines sold since launch.

Also, I noticed a rise in the number of manufacturers selling specific bank and slope flail / rotary mowers – with most being radio controlled to safeguard personal safety while working on steep slopes. Companies such as Spider, Agria, Robocut were showing off their wares in this field.


Spider mower team

As always there were plenty of educational opportunities for the visiting attendees with a vast range of presentations from industry professionals in the four theatre areas and Innovation Hub - and of course on the IOG stand where I saw Frank Newberry and several other IOG instructors giving out advice to end users.


Educational opportunites

However, for me the greatest asset of the show is the opportunity for people to meet up with fellow colleagues and turf professionals - plus have the opportunity to see over 300 exhibitors under one roof in two full-on days.

Also, it is always a great event to promote our fascinating industry. The awards night is especially rewarding as it recognises the commitment, endeavour, resourcefulness and hard work achieved by many individuals and teams of ground professionals / volunteers who work in this fantastic industry.


IOG stand

And lastly I would also like to thank the commitment and support of all the 300 exhibitors who pay for the privilege to exhibit at SALTEX - without them there would be no show.

For me personally, I enjoyed catching up with you all and will no doubt be chasing you for all those technical articles you have promised me! So again thank you for supporting myself and TurfPro and hope to see you at Saltex 2019.

Very best in UK groundsmanship
The joyous IOG Industry Award winners 2018

The expertise, dedication and passion of the grounds profession was honoured last week at the Institute of Groundsmanship annual Industry Awards.


More than 650 of the UK’s and Europe’s leading groundscare experts from both the professional and volunteer sector, as well as dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators, honoured the expertise, dedication and passion of the grounds profession at the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) annual Industry Awards last week.


Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, this year’s sell-out event at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole hosted by talkSPORT radio presenter Mark Saggers, recognised leadership, innovation and outstanding achievement across every aspect of groundscare - from grassroots pitches to professional stadia.


The joyous IOG Industry Award winners 2018


The ceremony also celebrated the quality standards of groundscare achieved in public and private sports venues, and highlighted the progress of young/student grounds professionals as well as entrants’ environmental considerations.


From an entry that equalled last year’s record-breaking nominations, the winners of the 2018 IOG Industry Awards are:

Toro Most Promising Sports Turf Student of the Year
Matthew Skingle, Coventry City FC.


Rigby Taylor/Top Green Young Grounds Person of the Year
John Wright, Southampton FC.


AMS Volunteer Sports Grounds Team/Person of the Year
Crowborough RFC, East Sussex.


National Governing Bodies’ Community Sports Club Grounds Team/Person of the Year
Stanningley Sports & Amateur Rugby League Club, Leeds.
The National Governing Bodies of sport (NGBs) award is co-sponsored by the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club), ECB (the England and Wales Cricket Board), The FA (Football Association), the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), the Premier League, the RFL (Rugby Football League), RFU (Rugby Football Union) and Sport England.

Public Sector Sports Ground Team of the Year
Gavin Jones Ltd (Aspire Defence, Project Allenby/Connaught), Surrey


Bowling Grounds Team/Person of the Year
Burleys (Crouch Bowling Club, East Sussex)


SCH Supplies Best Managed Artificial Surface of the Year
Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow


Ransomes Environmental and Ecology Strategy Award
Forest Green Rovers FC, Gloucestershire


National Governing Bodies’ Professional Multi-Sports Ground/Facility Team of the Year
Bath Recreation Ground.

Headland Amenity Professional Cricket Grounds Team of the Year
Warwickshire CCC, Edgbaston.


CubCadet INFINICUT Professional Tennis Courts Grounds Team/Person of the Year
Devonshire Park, Eastbourne


John Deere Professional Horse Racing Grounds Team of the Year
Lingfield Park Racecourse, Surrey


ICL/Syngenta Professional Rugby Football League Grounds Team of the Year
Leeds Rhinos (Leeds Rugby)


Kubota Professional Rugby Football Union Grounds Team of the Year
Scottish RFU (BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh)


SISGrass Professional Football Grounds Team of the Year (English Leagues 1 & 2, National League, National League North/South, Scottish Championship & Leagues 1 & 2, Ireland & Wales Professional Leagues)
Rotherham United FC.


SGL Professional Football Grounds Team or the Year (Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier League)
Leicester City FC


Redexim Charterhouse/Kubota University/College Grounds Team of the Year
University of Leicester


Growth Products Independent School Grounds Team of the Year
St Joseph’s College, Ipswich


International Ambassador of the Year
Jonathan Calderwood, Paris Saint-Germain FC.


Ransomes/DLF Johnsons Alex R Millar Awardchosen from the outstanding winner across all award categories
Gary Barwell, Warwickshire CCC

Special Recognition Awards
Mike Hunt and Adrian Morgan, Lord’s Cricket Ground


GrassMaster Solutions Lifetime/Outstanding Achievement Award
Peter Dury who, among many other achievements in sports turf throughout the country, is credited for developing the Pitch Performance Quality Standards that are today’s de facto standards for both natural and artificial playing surfaces.


IOG Outstanding Achievement Awards
Carl Pass and Steve Prinn

Carl Pass is head of Premier Pitches, a company that works at all levels of the game on pitch renovations and reconstructions, as well as aeration, fertilisation, seeding and spraying. Throughout, he says, the aim is to create the very best playing surfaces and to enhance the standards that can be expected from natural grass pitches.


Now retired as a turf grass lecturer at Askham Bryan College, Steve Prinn is an independent consultant who is skilled in sports surface management. As well as a whole host of City and Guilds accreditations Steve also holds a Master's degree in sports turf and turf grass management.


A special award, for Outstanding Leadership of the IOG, was presented to IOG chair David Teasdale.


Commenting on the high standard of award winners, IOG chief executive Geoff Webb, says: “Having this year suffered extreme weather conditions, with the winter’s ‘Beast from the East’ through to this summer’s unprecedented record heatwave, the climate has tested groundsmen to their limits.


“It has not been easy, yet we have seen how fantastic our profession is and, against all the odds and on a daily basis battling against the elements, this year’s awards had a fantastic array of nominees who have all achieved very high standards. I applaud everyone and thank them for their efforts in creating amazing playing surfaces.”

The Players Championship in Florida
Sunrise over TPC Sawgrass

BIGGA and John Deere have revealed the six members of the association who will be heading to Ponte Vedra Beach next March to help prepare the Stadium Course.


BIGGA and John Deere have revealed the six members of the association who will be heading to Ponte Vedra Beach next March to help prepare the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship.


Sunrise over TPC Sawgrass


The successful BIGGA members who have been selected to join the John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme 2019 are:

  • Scotland: Darren Skinner, Castle Stuart Golf Links;
  • North: Jon Gamble, Welshpool Golf Club;
  • Central England: Matthew Shaul, Cleethorpes Golf Club;
  • South West & South Wales: Mark Simmons, Kingsdown Golf Club;
  • South East: Andy Copeland, Chesfield Downs Golf and Country Club;
  • International: Niels Sorensen, Randers Golf Klub, Denmark.

John Deere will also select another volunteer from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland.


Each spring TPC Sawgrass is home to The Players Championship, with the event returning to its traditional March timing after 12 years of being hosted in May.


The shift has been necessitated due to a shuffle in the PGA Tour calendar and will see the greenkeeping team in 2019 undertake a very different challenge to that of preparing the course in May.


And with the capacity to host 36,000 fans each day and The Players considered by many to be men’s golf’s unofficial fifth major, all eyes will be on the condition of the course.


Whereas by May the harder ground and Bermudagrass makes for a very different playing style, in March the course is overseeded with cooler-season rye to ensure good playing conditions. Preparing the course earlier in the year will be just one of the challenges the six BIGGA members will face as they join the home greenkeeping team and a volunteer course maintenance force of over 90 volunteers.


Each of the BIGGA members underwent a rigorous application process, consisting of an online application, submission of a short video and an interview with BIGGA and John Deere representatives.


With 4am starts each morning, the BIGGA members are expected to work hard in exchange for the privilege of joining the team. They will completely integrate with the home course maintenance team in exchange for an insight into the preparation of TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course, where more of the world’s top players will compete than at any other venue throughout the year.


In 2018, Webb Simpson secured the $1.98m first prize with his tournament victory after tying the course record with a 63 in the second round.


Nicholas Thorley of Little Aston was selected to join the programme in 2018 and he said: “It was absolutely amazing. My favourite point was actually seeing the course for the first time. I have seen it on the television so many times, that to actually be there and see it live was incredible. There were around 20,000 people there each day and 30,000 on the Sunday. You felt like a bit of a superstar when you were out there and everyone is watching you do your job!”


John Deere Limited Turf Division Sales Manager Chris Meacock said: “I would like to congratulate all this year’s successful BIGGA and GCSAI members for winning through the selection process and earning a place on what will be our fifth annual TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme for 2019.


“The quality of applications that we receive each year is a true reflection of the high standards of greenkeeping and course management throughout the UK and Ireland. I know from the comments of past volunteers that this latest group will benefit greatly from the experience of being part of such a large, well-organised international greenkeeping team involved in the preparation of one of the world’s top golf tournaments.”


BIGGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Croxton said: “BIGGA has grown into a hugely international association and it’s fantastic that the expertise and professional of our members is recognised around the globe. I am certain that the BIGGA members who have been invited to join the team at TPC Sawgrass will once again do us all proud, while at the same time benefitting from this outstanding career development opportunity.

In north-west England and south-west Scotland
Cornthwaite Agricultural's premises near Kendal that opened at the end of last year

Johnston Tractors Ltd at Carlisle, Appleby and Dumfries no longer hold the John Deere franchise and have been replaced by Cornthwaite Group.


John Deere Limited has announced changes to its agricultural dealer organisation in north-west England and south-west Scotland.


As of 31st October 2018 Johnston Tractors Ltd at Carlisle, Appleby and Dumfries no longer holds the John Deere franchise and has been replaced by Cornthwaite Group.


According to a post on their Facebook page, Johnston Tractors Ltd have taken on the Valtra franchise are are introducing it today (November 2nd) at the Borderway AgriExpo 2018.


Cornthwaite Group has secured new premises in Dumfries on the Heathhall Industrial Estate, which are currently under construction and will open in the near future. In the meantime it has an interim facility on the same estate, to provide ongoing parts and service support.


Cornthwaite Agricultural's premises near Kendal that opened at the end of last year


The group has also secured an outlet just off junction 43 of the M6 at Rosehill Industrial Estate, Carlisle to provide continuing support to John Deere customers in the region, while it constructs new bespoke premises in the area. The Cornthwaite dealership group also includes established outlets at Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, Bispham Green in Lancashire and Nantwich in Cheshire, and employs over 100 staff.


“This change is part of John Deere’s ongoing Dealer of Tomorrow strategy, which is designed to strengthen the European dealer network and provide long-term stability for both dealers and customers,” says John Deere Limited division sales manager Chris Meacock.


Cornthwaite Agricultural dealer principal Stuart Cornthwaite adds, “We are very pleased to have been asked by John Deere to expand our business to cover this new trading area. We focus on and specialise in all John Deere agricultural product lines, including tractors, combines, greencrop equipment, sprayers, Gator utility vehicles and AMS FarmSight precision farming systems, as well as support programmes such as PowerGard maintenance and protection.


“We invest heavily in customer support, employing more than 40 service technicians in the group, and pride ourselves on providing industry leading parts support. We are committed to delivering the best possible machinery sales and service support to existing and new customers alike.”


In addition to John Deere equipment, the group’s other franchises include Bailey Trailers, Maschio, Kramer, Redrock, Standen, Vaderstad and Spearhead.

Next March at Forest of Arden Resort
GolfBIC 2019

Having been away for three years the UK Golf Federation and OGRO have re-launched GolfBIC 2019.


The UK Golf Federation and OGRO have re-launched GolfBIC 2019. The event will be returning to the Marriott Forest of Arden Resort on 18/19th March 2019 for the Golf Business and Industry Convention.


Having been away for three years, the organisers say past success of the GolfBIC has been in its timing and location and having key activities to drive proprietary golf course and driving range owners to see and meet major suppliers targeted at their business.

Doug Poole CEO UK Golf Federation said, "There is no better place to be than GolfBIC this coming March - so many opportunities to grow all our businesses together in one perfect location and meet key people in the commercial golf market.”

Colin Jenkins Chairman of OGRO added, “Its great to being going back to the Marriott Forest of Arden. Our event is perfect for all those involved in the golf industry. Its easy to get to and we have an excellent set of speakers for March 2019. We look forward to seeing our old friends again and making new ones.”

GolfBIC is open to all proprietary golf facility owners and golf industry service suppliers and golf brands.

At Bridgwater and Taunton College in Somerset
Ego training day at Bridgwater and Taunton College

Sixty students from the college’s horticulture, greenkeeping, sports turf, countryside management and arboriculture courses took part in battery-powered machinery training and awareness day.


EGO, the cordless outdoor power tool specialist, has helped horticulture students put theory into practice at Bridgwater and Taunton College in Somerset.


Sixty students from the college’s horticulture, green keeping, sports turf, countryside management and arboriculture courses attended. Apprentices and employers, who are undertaking the new Apprenticeship Standard, were also invited in to take part in this special training day.



Designed to raise awareness of battery-powered cordless technology, the day included a theory session in the morning, followed by a practical session in the afternoon.


Attendees were able to test the tools at the Cannington Golf Centre where they performed a variety of gardening work. This included trimming hedges down during opening hours, which would otherwise be limited due to the noise of petrol tools.


“Air pollution, noise pollution and sustainability are all clearly huge issues in today’s society. More and more, we can see how petrol-based equipment does not combat these problems, and in fact adds to them,” said Peter Melrose, President (EMEA) at EGO.


“That’s why initiatives like this where we can educate young people entering the trade is so important. With the cordless technology from EGO, we deliver the same power as an equivalent petrol tool, but with less fumes, that’s much quieter and much more sustainable for the planet.”


Cary Rawlings, Assessor/Trainer at Bridgwater & Taunton College, said, “I initially met the EGO team at Saltex 2017. We were thrilled to develop this relationship so that our students get to hear about the latest innovations and technology.”


The training day proved a hit with all parties. Jacob Camplin, a Level 2 Greenkeeping Apprentice, said, “Today was very enjoyable. I learnt about the benefits of battery-operated equipment over petrol.”


Attendees were all provided with EGO’s new FAQ document, giving detailed insight on battery technology and how it compares to petrol. The opportunity to understand how servicing and maintenance works with these tools was also a key part of the module, which included EGO’s mowers, hedge trimmers, chainsaws, leaf blowers and line trimmers.


Peter Melrose concluded, “It was great to partner with the Bridgwater and Taunton College and the day was a great success. It’s fantastic to see students gain exposure to a credible alternative to petrol, and we hope to hold another similar event again soon.”

To help tackle rural crime
Pioneer 700-4 with half cab

The campaign will see all new Honda ATV and Pioneer utility machines purchased after 1st November 2018 fitted with state-of-the-art tracking equipment free-of-charge.


Honda has partnered with security specialist Datatool to tackle the rising issue of rural crime.


The campaign will see all new Honda ATV and Pioneer utility machines purchased after 1st November 2018 fitted with state-of-the-art tracking equipment free-of-charge.


Pioneer 700-4 with half cab


Customers will have the option of adding on Datatool’s TQA-approved TrakKING Adventure package, which uses GPS chip set technology to offer theft protection, instant notifications and full journey history logging. The only cost to the customer is a monitoring subscription of £9.95 per month or £109 for a year (incl VAT).


A key safety feature in the Datatool package is the ‘G Sense’ impact alert notifications, which use a highly-sensitive 3D accelerometer to detect rollovers or high g-force impacts and alert an emergency contact via SMS - ideal for those working by themselves in remote locations. The system also includes location-based alerts, which automatically send a notification when the vehicle leaves a specified area.


To celebrate the partnership, Honda is offering Pioneer customers a half-cab for £999 outright (a saving of up to £880) until the end of March 2019. Comprising a hard roof, glass windshield, hard rear panel and windshield wiper/washer kit, the company says the option adds additional comfort and usability to their utility vehicle.


Andrew Parr, sales operations department manager at Honda (UK), said, “According to insight from NFU Mutual, the cost of rural crime has increased by 13.4% since 2016 alone - costing the UK some £44.5 million every year. The problems faced by rural communities are growing, meaning more needs to be done to improve crime prevention measures.


“We take security incredibly seriously and wanted to highlight the positive role manufacturers can play in tackling rural crime. Our partnership with Datatool is the latest in a long line of initiatives to lead the way in all-terrain security."


Accredited as a ‘Secured by Design’ product by the Police Service, TrakKING meets the highest security standards and has been specifically developed to deter theft, provide around-the-clock location visibility and aid recovery. Typically retailing at £349 (including installation), Honda say the system sets the standards in state-of-the-art 24/7/365 monitoring.


Dave Plummer, Datatool brand manager at Scorpion Automotive, added, “Fitting a tracking device to your all-terrain vehicle is not only a significant theft deterrent, but also looked upon highly favourably by leading insurance companies. We’re proud to partner with Honda in the roll-out such an important initiative to help prevent rural crime nationwide.”

New product specialist
Craig Cooper

Husqvarna has added to its Professional team this month with the appointment of Craig Cooper as professional field support - North.


Husqvarna has added to its Professional team this month with the appointment of Craig Cooper as professional field support - North.


Craig, who comes from a sales and service background, has experience spanning 14 years, previously working for companies Comet and Toyota.

He joins the Husqvarna Professional team with the remit of professional field support within the green space and treecare sector (Northern region) - a role which will include supporting dealers and large commercial buyers through the usage of Husqvarna’s professional range of products and solutions.

On joining the Husqvarna UK team and his new role, Craig commented, “Coming from a sales and service background, I strive for the best customer experience and always endeavour to have specialist level knowledge of my product. In the past that has included Dyson, Apple and hybrid cars. I very much look forward to taking on this new role and joining Husqvarna Professional.”

UK Manager - Husqvarna Professional, Kevin Ashmore, added, “We welcome Craig into the Husqvarna Professional team and look forward to working with him. Craig’s experience will help the team to strengthen our relationships with the commercial network and also demonstrate the benefits of Husqvarna’s product range.”

Until 21st December 2018
Ranger Diesel with half cab

Free half cab available for a limited period with purchases of new Polaris Ranger Diesels from selected dealers.


Polaris are currently promoting a 0% finance offer on the Ranger Diesel plus customers can also take advantage of a free half cab, with a limited period offer.


Ranger Diesel with half cab


Purchase a new 2018 Polaris Ranger Diesel HD EPS EU or Ranger Diesel HD EPS Tractor from selected Polaris dealers between 1 October 2018 and 21 December 2018 and customers can receive the free half cab promotional package. The package includes 1x fixed glass windshield and a washer/wiper kit with battery connection kit.


The Polaris 0% finance scheme is available over two years with 2 + 22 monthly payments up to a maximum of 80% of the Recommended Retail Price. The 0% finance can include up to £1,000 excluding VAT on genuine Polaris ATV and UTV accessories.


Terms and conditions apply to both the 0% finance offer and the half cab promotion with details available from Polaris dealers.

Amazing success rates!
Advertise your jobs on TurfPro Weekly Briefing

Advertise your recruitment needs on TurfPro Weekly Briefing and reach our targeted audience of recipients every week.

Contact Michelle Elford for details - 01491 837117

Find our previous features here

Q&A with BASIS ceo, Stephen Jacobs


Hosted at research trial grounds in Bingley


Leicester City FC invest in new role


Mick Hunt bows out after 49 years


Is it really necessary?

Catch up with Laurence Gale's recent blogs
TurfPro editor, Laurence Gale

Want to catch up with one of editor Laurence Gale's blogs? Here is the place to do so.


A celebration of our industry


Injuries and infections in the news


At the Amenity Forum Conference


Problem highlighted by national newspaper


Dedicated greenkeepers shine in Paris


Dedication pays off


Trade show illustrates diversity of our industry


Following good practice


Challenging conditions this year


Our main industry events are a must visit


Plan and prepare early


And the selling of Wembley Stadium


Highlighting the work of turf professionals


Difficult time for our whole industry


Every pitch stood up to the demands


In praise of the The Green Flag Award® scheme

Side Advert Image

Garden trader
Garden Trader
11 things you need to know . . .
by Phil Sharples, md International Turf Management Group (ITMG)
Perfect density and leaf texture

When it comes to literally millions of blades of grass and individual grass plants growing closely to each other, you must ask, is perfection actually a reality?


As an opening, I would like you to regard this as a discussion piece, I do not have all the answers, but, I am seeking them. Everyday I learn something new and that is how I like it. If this article promotes thought and discussion, then the aims of it will have been met.


If you are only wanting to see the 11 things you need to know, without reading the article in full, that I admit, gets pretty involved in the mechanisms. Shoot down to the last 1/3rd  - Please be mindful, that there are more than 11 aspects to consider, but I feel these are important to know. - Phil Sharples, ITMG


Football, or Soccer; depending on your location, it is a specific sport played on specific surface and this surface should portray specific characteristics.

Like all sports that require a pitch or a field to play on, the most important aspect, is, without doubt, the pitch as with no pitch, there is no game. You can get other footballers, you can get other balls, but you cannot get another pitch! UEFA state that the pitch condition and quality is the number one priority for their matches and if this is the case, you know it is important.



Before we get into what is required and desirable from a perfect pitch, lets think about and understand just a few of the issues that may be behind the need. It makes sense to establish the need initially.


A poorly constructed, conditioned or managed pitch can and will have an affect on the players and sometimes outcomes of matches as pitches interact with both the ball and players, these being the ingredients of essentially, the ‘game’  -  ball, player, something to play on.


The playing surface has an effect on player tiredness, motivation and well being. It can create or reduce injuries, accelerate body muscle tiredness, or not and has a large impact on player accuracy, control, grip, overall performance and stability to name a few! I have never herad of a player looking forward to playing on a poor surface. Unless it gives an advantage to them over their opponent. Let’s say the other team is known to be stronger. So there also maybe a hidden psychological impact.


Obviously, this will affect both ball and player


As will this . . .


It is worthy to note that poorly managed, overused or constructed surfaces have also led to significant rise in the number of artificial surfaces introduced into sports. The use of artificial is another story for another day, and for the scope of this article, not important.


You probably don’t have much time to spend reading this article (it is a big one!) and as you are probably speed reading, let's try and keep it simple and look at one aspect from the above, accuracy! There are many other aspects to consider, but we will focus attention on this particular one.


As a professional footballer you will spend a lot of your time doing cognitive repetition on a certain type of playing surface, known as training, carried out, usually on a daily basis. For argument's sake we should imagine this surface is great and displays constant characteristics. Passing accuracy for both long and short balls and knowing the approximate final positioning is important to outcomes and tactics and repetition allows the player to get a feel for this.


Passing and making the correct adjustments to force applied to the ball, direction required from the pass, type and amount of spin applied to the ball, final destination of the pass, the speed or current position of the player you are looking to pass to etc. (Multiple Simultaneous Attention) the programming learned in training is hard to adjust quickly from what you have become used to. You get a feel for what is needed from yourself, from your body parts and of course, from the pitch! All from what you have practiced many times before.



Eventually, you will expect similar results for your effort and instantly control your body without the need for thinking about it too much during a match. This allows a player to focus on other things, such as the move after the pass and further outcomes. You don’t want to be thinking, will that reach him? Not even for a a split second! It should be a natural reaction. And if it does not reach, for reasons such as a poor pitch, everything, suddenly changes. The player imagines that maybe it was them at mistake, was it? Or something else? Maybe the usual conditions did not apply? Consistency!



When the pitch is poor, waterlogged, bare of grass, diseased, distressed, too hard, too soft, or bumpy, to name a few issues you need to adjust what you have been practicing and the outcomes are not what you expect, as the ball / surface interaction is suddenly different as the ball can deviate from normal expectations - the pass gets intercepted, that eventually leads to a goal against is just one scenario. This essentially, is no fault of the player! Away from passing and accuracy, remember the Steven Gerard slip? Was this a pitch problem or something else? The issue ended costing the club dearly financially! We will never know the answer, but it is food for thought!


When playing in a Sunday league team a poor surface may not be such a huge hurdle to overcome and people just deal with it in their own way and generally are only there playing for fun. But when you have a squad of players worth multi-millions of dollars, you want their very best, every move, pass outcome is important over the 90 minute period. The outcome of the game when you are playing in competitions also worth multi-millions of dollars becomes very important and vital for the business. Football at a high level is a business after all.



It is only right that an owner or a shareholder or manager would want to eliminate any outside factor that could influence the game result and provide the best possible playing surface for those using it. Essentially, you want to protect your investments, as a manager; protect the squad, eliminate or negate any and all risk (an injured player gives no return) and provide consistent and reliable conditions that allows all players to focus on what they are doing. Without interference! Basically, allowing them to use their skills and abilities that you bought them for!

It may also be the case that if a club has complete consisteny with all it’s surfaces, from training and practice to match. It may well lead to an advantage for all home games as the players are used to conditions and their pass accuracy may indeed increase.


How many times have you heard a coach blame a poor result on the surface? Sometimes this is very true and sometimes just an excuse. I know, there is definitely something in this! A pitch can have a huge effect on the game played and of course its outcome.


This was the condition of a stadium I took over the management of back in 2016. Today's condition can be seen in the title photo.


Is the perfect pitch something that is really attainable and worth chasing? Well, in my opinion, of course, yes, but there must be stringent rules applied to ensure quality and this is very much down to the type and quality of management the surface receives. There are lots to think about and the answer is not as simple as you may think!


Cost? You cannot get great results without paying something for them. Which leads to another issue to deal with, people wanting the very best, but not being prepared to pay for this! The perfect pitch needs time, attention and is a high maintenance aspect of infrastructure. This is where the old adage of ‘Anyone can grow grass’ should come under scrutiny!


It is said, “Anyone, can grow grass”, well, yes, they can, but “grass will grow itself” without the help of ‘anyone’ is a little more accurate. In terms of producing a resilient, consistent and reliable performance surface, then the answer is, no, not just anyone can grow grass and grass cannot do this itself either! Sometimes, even the guys growing the grass, cannot grow grass, well they can, but in a muddled and round-about way that has no real consistency to it!


Being completely honest, I have met many so called experts in my time, and whilst people I have met do a good job and many more do a great job, it soon becomes apparent that some lack some fundamental knowledge and this plays a vital role with consistency. It is the lack consistency that adds to the cost of the surface. More problems can only equal more cost and time spent. Especially when there are match schedules to meet.


Education, as we are dealing with biology, is vital. Sometimes, you don’t know things until someone tells you, right!? I have a feeling that many thousands of dollars has been spent rectifying problems that were not necessarily the fault of the plant, but a fault with it’s conditioning somewhere down the line.


This is where biology bites, as just one example; if thinking about the spread of disease within a plant. The dead leaves (known as symptoms) are actually one of the very last stages of disease development. Time is spent then trying to kill it off, all a little too late! The actual infection itself may well have taken place weeks or even months before. The symptoms appear when the environment is right. Timing is key as we will discuss later.


Getting back on track, lets now add a stadium, an environment where grass does not want to grow due to a number of environmental factors; such as lack of sunlight, lack of air movement, fluctuating temperatures from one side of the pitch to the other, then the management of the surface starts to costs more.


Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul


Anything is possible, but, like great football players, it comes at a cost. When was the last time you saw grass growing directly under a fully grown large tree? You can see some, usually it is thin and sparse, but away from the shade, it grows better and stronger, right? Is it impossible to grow grass under the tree? No! But to do it, will take knowledge, time and attention.


There are many factors, but in my opinion there are two ‘major’ requirements to produce a perfect consistent performance surface.


Number one for me, without any doubt, is the staff employed, their skills, experience and knowledge. Not just vital but imperatively vital! A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so they say.

Daily maintenance and management decisions made are extremely important and have total control over what the surface plays like. Generally the pitches staff will work long hours, including weekends. They do not do this for fun necessarily, it is required. care and attention to details is key as is dedication.


Technology forms part of knowledge for some situations


Number two is the connection between the club and the staff. If the club disregards advice given as to when and how to use the surface(s) then issues without doubt will occur. Grass is a plant, and whilst this plant can be encouraged to do things that are not completely natural to its normal growth behaviour (effectively forced to grow). Plants, also, do not do things instantly. They require time, although this time factor can be reduced with knowledge, nothing in biology of this type is instant. Many people don’t understand this. But we can speed up the entire process, with care.


It becomes a bit of a conundrum as if the pitch looks great, therefore the team want to use it, sometimes a little too much! And this in turn affects how great the pitch is and weakens it over time. Back to the biology aspect. Plants take time to grow and develop! There must be a mutual trust. If there is opportunity to use, it should be used as this is what the pitch is for! To be played upon!


However, if all is not well, it should not. This decision should be made by those managing it, they are the experts! We all have opinions and this particular one should the responsibility of those managing the pitch just like team selection is the responsibility of the manager of the team. We must remember the pitch is an asset and this asset should be used wisely. Unless money is unlimited?


Other factors include the quality of the construction and the suitability of the growing media (usually sand based), working budget, available equipment and machinery, area of the World the stadium resides; not all places are cool and temperate like we find in Europe where the cool season grass species grow well. Some areas use cool season grasses in high temperature climates. Like where I work. Also, the choice of grass plant you deicide upon.


Then there are the external factors, quality of sunlight, water amounts, disease presence, shade type, compaction, speed of root development and movement (largely determined by management), type and conditions of the medium you are growing it on, speed of plant leaf growth and it’s method of self propagation, time of year, match and training schedules, plant reaction to wear, type of wear, species of grass grown (there are thousands) and many more. All need considering (and more) and adjustments should be made to management to compensate.


Add to this that football is played through the winter period, a time when plants stop producing leafy growth, things can get tricky. How many of you mow your lawn in January and February?


Root cross sections picture courtesy of Penn State University website - Vegetive growth and development


To list the number of things that can wrong with a pitch is actually limitless, it’s amazing how many there actually are. From biological problems, to environmental problems to pest problems and more. A playing surface can develop an issue overnight, but it will not repair itself the next night. Once a problem hits it can take weeks to recover.


All stadiums and areas exhibit different environmental conditions that will have an affect on the grass. Grass health can, does and will change everyday. There are no rest periods, and there are endless problems that need solving. With the invention of undersoil heating and lighting rigs, we can now grow the plant 24 hours a day, everyday.
It is how arising problems are solved that is important.


It only takes one wrong chemical application or an unthoughtful or reactive application or operation of something that will will have an affect on the biology of the surface. If not immediately, then a week or a month later. On many occasions I have seen applications of chemicals that will not solve the issue present. Blind management!


So how difficult is it to manage grass? Well, it’s not difficult if the grass is left alone (as prior discussed) in an open field to do what to was designed to do. Grow to its maximum potential, build up a large reserve of carbohydrates (for the hard times) and then propagate itself via seed to continue its evolution and ensure survival.


The issue is we want to put this plant in environments where growth is not encouragable, we want to make it suitable for sport, pleasing and beautiful to look at play football on it, train on it, using boots with studs on them, run machines and equipment all over it, and then play around with its natural growth habits to make it give us some characteristics we like.


When mowing, we are effectively cutting off its arms that it uses to photosynthesis. It grows the leaf and it wants to grow this to maximum length for maximum effectiveness of course, but, we cut it off, ad infinum! It wants to seed, we don’t allow it!

Sports require that we make it suitable for the sport played. Such as a carpet like appearance that is comfortable, strong and beautiful to look at on TV.


I am in danger of sounding like some kind of grass rights activist here! I am not, but as mentioned, understanding the biology is an important aspect. You would expect an expert to have a deep understanding of the subject, right?


We want it to be turgid (ability to stand upright), have a good leaf texture and structure, have the right type of growing habit (generally three types of growing habit), offer resistance to wear, disease and drought stress, have a good colour, be strong, be reliable in all weathers and conditions. Be smooth and uniform, clearly marked out and perfect in size. Usually 105m x 68m


Suraxani, Azerbaijan. Azersun Arena


As discussed, naturally, what does the grass want to do? Grow, develop a full canopy to take in all the sunlight and gases to make sugars used as food, develop a full root system to take in the water and nutrients and gases seed itself, then die. That’s pretty much it. It does this all for free too, using sunlight as energy. It’s very clever in reality.


We don’t allow the plant to do what it wants, for instance seeding. It can never get to this point as it is mowed too often and never develops a seed head. There is really only one grass that is suited to seeding even when mowed and that particular grass species is seen as a weed, as it displays characteristics that are not required. One of them being shallow rooted and shallow rooted grasses do not add great stability when a 80kg footballer with studs in his/her shoes is running around on it, plus it never really looks great on TV unless you throw lots of Nitrogen on it and that, just leads to, you guessed it, more issues down the line.


So, we need to apply some strategic thinking; how can we manage this plant and make it give us what we want, wherever we want it and not affect it too much? This, is the cause of the issues and this is why you cannot see great grass surfaces everywhere, lack of thinking. Thought, understanding, knowledge, technology and skill make the best pitches. Naturally, it is not possible. But we can and do make it possible.


Teamwork, like in all business, is vital


There are a million ways to manage a grass plant. Everyone has their own technique and over the years we have figured out generally what works and what does not. We know what to do for many difficult situations and most generally understand the reaction and what happens when we apply this chemical or that chemical.


The issue is biology. It takes not only knowledge of what the main problems are and avoid doing them, but, there is the issue of people understanding biology and understanding the long term consequences of their actions and or applications. We are all still learning!


Along with millions of different methods for managing grass there is the million and one chemicals you can apply to force the plant to this, or that or prevent this, or that occurring. And here, in my opinion is where we get maintenance induced issues.

We have already discussed that each pitch will have a differing environment. Therefore, it makes no sense to manage all pitches in the same way. You could have a training pitch outside a stadium. It would be easy to simply do the same things to each, but it would not be wise to do so.


To get the best results, you need to manage the surface as it stands and look to manage each particular surface as is needed, from what the plant or sward (a stand of grass) is telling you, individually. The plant maybe the same, but the environment is different, they will develop differently.


Thoughtful, knowledgeable advice is needed for results. Anyone can offer advice, but sometimes this advice will only end up costing you more, there is a lot of quick fix methods that bite later.


Qarabag FK’s stadium (one of two). The Azersun Arena


The pitch is integral part of the team and the guys who manage it all, keep the wheel turning and provide consistency. You should want the very best from your surfaces, just like you require from players you choose to buy. You spend a lot of time training players, perhaps, occasionally you should also spend time training the staff who play a key role in player performance and results. When chasing perfection, this aspect is key.



As for the answer to what makes the perfect pitch? I add more pictures below, please take a read of their descriptions. As here, you will see a handful of the conditions required to make the perfect surface. It is very achievable These are not an exhaustible list of what it takes, but each is important and each requires specific knowledge and management to attain.


Bakcell Arena, Baku. National Team training before match.


So as the article's title asks, can we really chase and achieve grass perfection? Yes of course we can and we do. The pictures included in the article show the quality that can be achieved. But, speaking as an agronomist, chasing grass perfection, when it comes to literally millions of blades of grass and individual grass plants growing closely to each other, you must ask is perfection actually a reality? All you can do is constantly aim for perfection, one match and one day at a time. Shoot for the stars.



11 Things you need to know

(1) Uniform leaf density and texture. Leaves should be uniform in texture and width. This allows the plant to fill all space evenly (like a thick rain forest canopy) and give a carpet like appearance that promotes smoothness, a degree of softness and comfort and improves overall playability of the surface. For consistency of play, leaf density should be uniform across the entire surface.


Perfect density and leaf texture


(2) Growth habit of the grass species used, ideally something that produces a tiller, either above or below the ground, as this aids in wear recovery and increases the surfaces’ strength.


Picture from https://feedxl.com/24-identifying-pastures-part-1/


(3) Turgidity, the plant needs to be upright. Ensuring correct levels of light, nutrients and water are vital for this and this aspect also aids surface smoothness. Turgidity enables the plant to stand itself upright after being walked upon.


The plant should stand itself upright after being compressed


(4) Colour, should be green, not too light or yellow. We don’t have a perfect shade or RAL definition as yet, sure it will come soon though! A medium green colour usually works well. Colour is controlled by chlorophyll in the plant, chlorophyll reflects green spectrum light. Hence, why grass is green!


An even and uniform colour allows striping and patterning for visual effects and defines the playing surface against backdrops


(5) Plant selection. Choose the best grass possible for the budget you have. Grass technology and breeding has moved on 100 fold over the past 10 years. With time and research, you can find a type that fits the environment you have perfectly. Make sure you buy enough to over seed with the same and make sure it will be available to purchase in future years. Of the three growth habits.


Previously noted, there were three types, bunched, creeping with stolons (above ground) or creeping with rhizomes (below ground). These days you can get plants that have both stolons and rhizomes - best solution? Sometimes! Not all the time. Better to use what suits your environment and I advise using one or two varieties and/or species to cover disease resistance. You would not want all plants susceptible to exactly the same types of disease.


The type and quality of seed is very variable. Especially important for meeting texture and density requirements. Choose wisely and manage the species you have. Not all will be managed the same even though they are all grasses


(6) Disease resistance. There are many turf grass diseases, best management will be to select plant that have a high resistance to the diseases generally associated with the local climate as will controlling and not over using chemicals such as fertilisers and tonics. Water management is also vital.


When disease hits you, all bets are off. Disease is a sometimes inevitable aspect of turfgrass management, ever present and waiting to strike


(7) Drought stress resistance. The more able the plant can cope with drought stress the better. Over watering leads to many issues and problems. Drought reistant plants require less water, a good thing.



(8) Sand that is free draining. Allowing water to pass freely through the rooting layer allows play to continue during bad weather without causing problems. The surface will need to be able to cope with the most adverse weather. Without faltering! Not always possible as seen below! A free draining rooting zone will also have plentiful supplies of oxygen for the roots to utilise and provide excellent gas exchange capabilities. The roots take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide , opposite to the leaves above, that take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The best medium to use is that of a sand. Coarse / medium sized, sub-angular shaped (particles) and with very little silt and clay within. A low to middle pH is best aimed for. But, I use medium/fine sands in many situations without issue. Not ‘zero’ silt and clay, in my opinion, just minimal. Obviously, no stones should be present within it.



(9) Aim for minimum thatch levels. Thatch is an organic layer found under the leaves and above the soil/sand. It is a build up of old and new organic material form the grass plant. Thatch levels generally increase when water and fertiliser is over or misused. High thatch can lead to many undesirable issues, just assume minimal is desirable.


This surface is over 5 years old, still minimal thatch levels. A rhizomatous grass species is used. Never scarified


(10) Employ technology only where thinking objectively cannot solve the problem. Don’t be swayed with sales talk. Understand the need, understand the issue behind the problem and source a solution that you feel will fix the issue … for good! Ask a lot of questions, just be sure you know the answers to the questions you ask and if you don’t, get independent advice. Technology has moved on quickly and continues to do so, this is a good thing. Factor in all costs before deciding on the way forward. Many times, with new tech, the cost of purchase is only the beginning…know the facts and all costs then decide if it really is the right way forward. This money may well be better spent elsewhere or in another way long term.



(11) Plan and understand all management tasks. The key is to fully understand what you want to achieve, the issues you want to solve, and solve them quickly. Set goals and stick to making the goal a reality. If there are no issues, planning should focus on how it will improve the overall condition or maintain the overall condition and of course, consistency.


Timing is very important, for all operations but especially so those that incorporate oxygen into the root zone of involve chemical application. Fertiliser and water applications should be well managed. The crux of many issues! Know exactly why you are doing each task (not because Joe down the road did it, or because your read it on the internet) and know exactly what results you will achieve with all operations, long and short term. At professional level, we do not work to calendar dates. There is no need, we can make the surface grow steadily with technology all year around.


Management follows understanding. Teach your team well. You are only as good as your team!


For now, this ends the discussion. There are many other aspects I have not mentioned for purposes of keeping it all reasonable in size! To cover all aspects of turf management does require something the size of many books. if you break down all aspects in further detail, we are talking hundreds of books. From those looking into photosynthesis, to the water molecule and it’s role in the plant to those covering management of budgets and staff moral. It goes on.


I hope you got something from this particular read.

If this has sparked an interest in you to find out more about growing grass. My book (ebook) is available from Amazon. Details here.