An artificial turf pitch (ATP) is a great addition to any sports facility and should be seen as an asset, not a burden. It should also be regarded as complimentary to any existing natural turf pitches. An ATP is able to host training and non-competition matches during winter months or during periods of heavy play thus decreasing the footfall on natural turf pitches when it requires. Synthetic Specialist for Charterhouse Turf Machinery, Curtis Allen, explores the misnomers in the battle between synthetic and natural surfaces and explains how a consistent and effective maintenance regime will ensure maximum returns on the investment.

Using an artificial surface in parallel can provide relief to an over-stretched natural pitch, with both surfaces having their own pros and cons. There’s still a great deal of scepticism around artificial surfaces, even after many years since its introduction to the market.  As a multifaceted company, Charterhouse Turf Machinery understands both sides of the argument, even when I walk into a facility and hear comments such as “it’ll take my job”, “it’s bad for the environment” and “it’s not as good as natural turf”.  It doesn’t help that I’ve seen on numerous occasions an ATP being installed without the groundsman being consulted – and then being told to look after it!  They can be forgiven for asking – how, when and with what when this happens.  In these sort of cases our response is to break through with education and explanation, especially with all of the misnomers surrounding artificial surfaces flying about.

We understand it can be difficult to take pride and ownership over an ATP. Maintaining natural turf is all about creating a surface which is ever more durable, aesthetically pleasing and stronger. What can be achieved with the different soils, seed and fertilisers available is almost limitless. The fact is an ATP is a carpet and always will be a carpet and when it is first laid on day one, it is as good as it will ever be. However, there are standards which need to be achieved and maintained for safety, longevity and governing body accreditations. It is a common misunderstanding that a synthetic pitch has no maintenance requirements. Whilst the maintenance does not need to be complex or costly it does need to be consistent and effective whether the surface be Sand Dressed, Sand Filled or 3G.

The footfall on a synthetic surface will compact the infill and flatten the fibres; the surface will become hard under foot, drainage ability will be reduced and if the fibres are no longer supported they will lay horizontal. If left like that, and play continues, the most vulnerable part of the fibre is exposed to loading and UV – causing premature wear and breakage to reduce the overall expected life. Damage caused by flattened fibres can take as much as 7 years off the lifespan of the carpet. I often get asked “how long will my ATP last?” – I’ve seen pitches being replaced after 3 years and some still going after 27 years; it is all down to usage and maintenance.

When calculating a maintenance regime it is important to tie it to the usage – the idea of brushing every ten hours refers to the entire pitch area being used in the normal fashion by, say, twenty two players. Though this may not always be the case as the surface can sometimes accommodate up to three games of eighteen players each which increases the total pairs of feet to fifty four (plus staff, referees and parents). The following calculations can help when deciding maintenance requirements. The higher the factor Ӿ figure becomes the more maintenance will be required.

The calculator shows that a five-a-side site, despite its smaller area and fewer players for the same amount of hours per year, requires more maintenance than the full size surface. If we do the same calculation on the full sized site, but with the 54 players on the site, we get a figure of 13.5 to make an increase in maintenance of 145% to compensate for the additional footfall.

After 10 years of testing and development Redexim Charterhouse now offer a broad range of machinery to clean, brush, de-compact, remove and install synthetic turf. The portfolio now spans 35 products with the majority of new product developments coming from industry advancements and customer demands. Machines such as the Verti-Top are setting industry standards by ensuring surfaces are safe while ensuring longevity expectations are met.

The maintenance of any synthetic turf facility is crucial but developments in the industry now mean there are tools and support available to support those tasked with the maintenance of a surface; whether it is contacting the Charterhouse office for support and information or trialling machines such as the RTC or the Verti-Top.

It is well known that a lack of, or incorrect, maintenance will lead to a premature failure and a drop in revenue. The maintenance does not need to be costly or complicated but it does need to be effective and tailored to your individual site. It is worth considering where the usage and footfall takes place, footwear types and which sports are played on the surface when planning maintenance regimes. Charterhouse support a number of specialist courses designed to empower and engage with those maintaining synthetic turf – this is always a good way to develop skill sets and ensure the correct maintenance regime is taking place.