Learnings on pitch management from ESSMA Summit 2021
The 7th edition of our ESSMA Summit took place in the Allianz Stadium in Turin. The dedicated pitch track was set up specifically for pitch managers with a live demonstration on Juventus’ pitch. A visit to the official Juventus training center, J-village was also part of the programme. Furthermore, the track also included presentations by 2 experts in their field:
- Mr. Félicien Laborde, Deputy CEO at AS Monaco
- Mr. Scott Brooks, Head Groundsmanager at OGC Nice
Both clubs are located in the South of France, but that isn’t the only thing that they have in common: they both aspire to be at the top of the Ligue 1, they have both developed state-of-the-art training facilities to attract and develop the best young talents to get there and they have both invested to get the top-experts in the field of pitch management to make sure that the pitches on which these young talents will play are the best they can possibly be. During our ESSMA Summit, both gentlemen shared with our audience of pitch managers how they try to do exactly that.
Investing in Talent - La Turbie
AS Monaco already started with its plans to redevelop the “La Turbie” training center in 2012-2013. After an initial study phase, authorization was granted and the club started work in 2018. After having spent over €55 million on the project (which includes 2 training pitches for the first team and a homologated pitch to host second team competitions) the project is now projected to be delivered in August of 2022.
From a pitch management point of view, Paul Burgess (Pitch Manager at the AS Monaco Performance Center) , explained: “We’re now basically building 3,5 pitches with undersoil heating and grow lights and high maintenance in machinery to allow us to deliver full circle maintenance from day-to-day maintenance to renovation practices. We’re about halfway through the project right now; So far all has been going very well and we hope to deliver something special here.”
“We cannot have the biggest facility but we can aim to have the best”
Paul Burgess, Pitch Manager at the AS Monaco Performance Center
Renovating pitches during COVID-19
With the training center facilities already in place the challenge for Scott Brooks at OGC Nice was to deliver pitches with the same high quality as the buildings surrounding them. After having moved to Nice from St George’s Park (the English FA’s national training centre) Mr. Brooks was faced with pitches that had poor grass health, a lack of coverage and insufficient stability.
Faced with this “perfect storm” Mr. Brooks and his grounds manager’s team needed to develop a clear plan. In order to gain the trust and support of high-level executives, the first step of the plan was a simple one under the slogan “Let’s grow some grass”. The team introduced best practices in day-to-day pitch management, focused on getting 1 high quality training pitch as soon as possible and carried out a first pitch renovation in February 2020.
Having gained the confidence of the board and the players, the grounds manager’s team was now ready for the second step of their plan. Coincidentally, this was also exactly when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. While the virus meant that all football activities were halted, it gave Mr. Brooks and his team the chance to thoroughly renovate the facilities, with 2 new pitches for the professional team built in april 2020. They excavated the terrain down to the sub base and existing drainage and added a new gravel carpet, irrigation ring and upper and lower root zones, which prepared the substrate layers for the brand-new hybrid pitches.
With two top-quality pitches delivered, the work at OGC Nice’s training center wasn’t finished. The club introduced a synthetic pitch project for the academy, high performing LED lighting systems and keeps focussing on innovative and sustainable practices. It is clear that while they have taken great leaps in this past year, their aim is to keep on evolving and improving in the future.