How weather impacts the pitch and how to deal with it
Weather plays a significant role on the development and quality of the pitch. Even though weather factors cannot be prevented, they can be foreseen and measures can be taken to protect and provide a high-quality pitch. During the ESSMA Pitch Management Workshop several groundsmen shared their insights related to weather management.
Head Groundsman Sebastian Breuing explained how SV Werder Bremen track the weather and which systems they have implemented to analyse, foresee and respond to weather factors.
The collection of site-specific weather data is important to help define an approach for solutions and improve daily operations. Besides the weather data related to rain, snow, temperature, etc. it is also important to gather the amount of work, machine hours, match operations, etc. The analysis of all this data can help a Groundsman to understand and justify the quality of his pitch.
Last summer when they were reseeding their hybrid pitch, a small tornado hit the stadium. As a result they had to reseed the whole pitch again. This is only one example of how an unforeseen weather factor can influence your daily pitch operations.
At SV Werder Bremen they implemented several solutions to handle the weather. When dealing with snow, in addition to the undersoil heating they shovel and blow away the snow or roll the pitch to reduce accumulation. Furthermore, to safeguard the pitch against frost, they protect it with a cover. Especially, on pitches without undersoil heating.
Over the last seasons, several Bundesliga games had to be suspended, postponed or delayed as a result of thunderstorms and lighting strikes. To project the players and the surrounding area SV Werder Bremen installed a lighting warning system.
How to deal with a snow disaster
During matchweek 15 of the 2017-2018 season, Jan Gijzen, Head Groundsman at FC Utrecht, and his team had to deal with a snow disaster. A lot of snowfall was predicted, but the referee did not want to postpone the match. As a result, the grounds team of FC Utrecht put a lot of effort into preparing the pitch. Over 25 volunteers helped to remove the snow and they used a tractor . When the pitch was ‘ready to play’, the referee decided to cancel the game anyway. Still a lot of damage was done to the pitch.
Ahead of the disaster, FC Utrecht shared the second place with AZ Alkmaar on the pitch ranking with 4,8 out of 5. However, after the winter period, they dropped to the sixth place with a 3,4 in the pitch ranking as a result of that one round. In January, they made the decision to returf the pitch to improve pitch quality for the remainder matches of the 2017-2018 season.
The FC Utrecht grounds team learned a lot from this incident and made a plan to avoid similar incidents in the future which includes:
- Setting up a protocol with the football association
- Fraise mowing with a 6-weeks renovation period
- Fraise mowing on the first day of the winter break period
- Cover system to protect the pitch
- Further educate the grounds staff
Dealing with heat
Abdelkrim Djelloudi of the Algerian FA talked about how to deal with heat and the impactof:
- Mowing height: higher grass during the summer results in less diseases and reduces the amount of water your pitch needs
- Water management: best practice to water the grass deeper and less frequent
- Verticutting to encourage growth and water absorption
- Aerificiation: e.g. large fans can cool down the pitch to minimize the heat impact
Moreover there are differences in heat stress tolerance depending on the grass species, with poa pratensis being more heat resistant.
- Find a balance between seasonal weather conditions, resources, manpower and data analysis
- Have proper procedures in place to deal with certain elements and scenarios e.g. snow storms
- Change seed depending on weather
- Proactive response to changes in the weather and always be prepared for worst-case scenarios
- Choose the most suitable seeds depending on your climate
- Collect all the possible data related to the quality of the pitch and the weather
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