The maintenance requirements of a rugby pitch are site-specific, determined by several factors, including:
- The local climate
- Prevailing weather conditions
- The turfgrass species present
- The type of pitch construction
- The level of use (for example recreational, school, club, professional)
- The frequency and intensity of use
- The maintenance resources available
The overall aim of rugby pitch maintenance is to provide a safe playing surface for the players and officials which allows the games of rugby to be showcased. Typically, as the level of rugby increases, the presentation of the pitch becomes more important and there is a requirement for the pitch to be visually appealing for spectators and broadcasting.
- An overall sustainability strategy should be compiled with all relevant stakeholders. This can include, but is not restricted to, the description of sustainability initiatives with clear rational behind them, clear record keeping of maintenance actions and ongoing maintenance measures required
- Local materials should be used as much as possible, for example, locally sourced sand for top-dressing where the local product is suitable
- Increasing grass cover will act as a “cover crop”, storing carbon in the ground and avoiding soil erosion
- Recycle materials as much as possible
- Increase data collection and testing to make smarter decisions
- You can save money and resources by performing regular pitch audits to identify issues as they arise. This will reduce the amount of renovation required
- Consider donating turf removed because of renovation at elite level to be used in a local community setting
- Minimise water usage and use recycled water (rainwater storage) in wash down facilities
The following sections summarise the key elements of rugby pitch maintenance. The approach is applicable to all types of surfaces unless specifically indicated otherwise.
Below is a list of the basic equipment that any venue at any level should have available for ground staff. These items can be replaced with other equipment that would nominally perform the same task. The important thing to note is that the equipment should enable the ground staff to maintain the field to an acceptable standard.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of all of the equipment that might be available for ground staff at an elite level stadium. Some of the work these are needed for may be outsourced to a contractor so it may not be necessary to have them on site. Suggested specifications for some of the equipment is also provided.
It is likely that the users of this guide will fit somewhere between these two lists. This is likely due to budgetary reasons and ground staff should decide what equipment to procure based on the needs of the venue.
- Regular maintenance of all machinery. Specifically spray and irrigation equipment, in order to ensure optimised distribution of product and water and minimised wastage.
- Where possible use electric powered machinery and source your electricity from renewable energy sources. Store equipment as close to the field as possible. For artificial turf fields this will help to reduce the migration of infill beyond the surface.
Growing lights help grass grow when sunlight exposition does not meet its optimal requirements due to shading or seasonal conditions. Lights increase photosynthesis and plant health.
It is important to understand the differences between HPS and LED lights technology and choose the one that fits your needs, considering grass species, climate, storage, operation, and cost. From a growing standpoint, HPS produces some amount of heat (5-8°C) that can be an advantage to grasses in cool regions but detrimental to others grown in warmer latitudes. Experts’ advise is recommended before making the investment.
Improving warm or cool air circulation in secluded stadiums can improve plant health by reducing conditions that encourages fungal diseases and temperature stress.
It is a good transitional solution for soil-based pitches that have poor drainage and face cancellation risks due to heavy rains. They can also work as a greenhouse in the wintertime to encourage growth. Some high-tech fabrics allow a good deal of sunlight through them and, therefore, keeping them in place longer.
If heavy damage is inflicted to the turf, it may require returfing with sod. The golden rule is that sod must have the same or a better soil mix than the pitch has. Therefore, if we have a modified soil-based pitch, we should not use native soil sod whereas if it is a sand-based pitch, sod must be grown in similar sand. Otherwise, sod will block water infiltration and affect drainage in that area. Species and hopefully varieties must match too.
In some countries, there is an abundant supply of sod (rolls or stabs) grown on sand, modified soils, or just native soil. However, in others there is no such availability so having a nursery is strongly advised to produce your own sod for repairs, repatching and even a full renovation if needed.
Sod thickness should be as thick a sod as possible.