£100,000 To Replace Saracens Turf

Double winners Saracens, who became the first Premiership club to install an artificial pitch, are facing a bill of around £100,000 to replace the surface just three years into an expected six year life span.

The artificial grass will be replaced during a three week period next month to ensure the European Champions Cup and Premiership winners have a pitch that is ready for the start of the new season.

Sarries installed their controversial pitch at Allianz Park in 2013 and were expected to renew the surface area of the £500,000 system in six or seven years, however, the club has confirmed that time scale, like the pitch, is being torn up.

It comes as a third of Premiership clubs will be operating on artificial pitches next season with Newcastle having followed Sarries lead and now Worcester have installed a variation on the same 4G system this summer. In Wales, Cardiff Pontypridd and Merthyr have followed suit along with Oyonnax in France.

The World Rugby backed artificial pitches are designed to ensure year round consistent playing conditions and Sarries have made their surface available to local clubs and schools. In three years a staggering 350 ruby matches have taken place on the pitch and this constant use along with maintenance issues are behind the need to install a new “top”.

Andy Duckworth, the Saracens commercial and marketing officer, explained:”It is just the top part of the system that is being replaced and the infrastructure and shock pad do not need to be changed. When we came to Allianz Park our desire was to make it a North London sporting hub and community stadium.

“We have surpassed our own expectations of usage with 350 games, 50,000 children having their sports days at the stadium, 7,750 hours of community use and close to 500,000 fans on Saracens match days over the three years who were able to walk onto the pitch.

“Because we were the pioneers there has been a learning experience in terms of usage and looking after the pitch. We are now at a stage where as European and Premiership champions we want to make sure we have absolutely the best pitch. Has it had a shorter shelf life than expected when we put it in? Yes, but has that been outweighed by the benefits of what we have delivered to the community – absolutely.

“There are lessons about how often to brush the pitch, directions of brushing and how to treat it at various times with different climates. The new surface will have more green fibre – up from 1700 to 2,200 grams per square metre – and that means the fibres will stand up longer.”

Worcester have opted to use a different infill compared to Sarries and Newcastle who have “soil” which is shredded car tyres. The Worcester pitch infill includes coconut husk which critics claim will absorb water and raises the chances of problems in severe cold. However, the rubber option also has its detractors with investigations taking place in the US and Europe over claims the bits of shredded tyres could constitute a health issue.

“ We are continuing a constant dialogue with our suppliers (SIS):” added Duckworth.”We couldn’t be happier with our pitch and the impact it has had on the local community. We believe we have the busiest elite sports stadium in the country.”

Sunday Times