Since it was established in 1863, the fundamentals of football have changed little. However, pretty much everything else has including the pitches they play on.
How have football pitches changed? Compost Direct, UK garden and lawn dressing company has tracked the evolution of the football pitch from grass roots to 4G technology.
Football started on grass
No surprises – the game of football began on grass, a pitch the sport would rely on right up to today. Pitches require good levels of light and watering plus, high levels of maintenance. Grass is delicate and so, intensive use can leave pitches looking worn and tired.
Professional football clubs hire groundsmen to maintain the football pitches. The role of groundsman is an important one in the football industry and can earn up to £42,000 per year.
Increased usage of artificial turf
Although unheard of before 1960, artificial turf is commonplace now. David Chaney, head of the RTP research team, founded the product, making it from polypropylene or nylon fibre attached to a concrete or asphalt base. This type of turf was first installed and used in 1966 at Houston’s Astrodome.
The benefits this low-maintenance turf was first realised in the UK, with Queens Park Rangers, Luton Town, Oldham Athletic and Preston North End all replacing their natural grass pitches.
To begin with, this type of pitch had many downsides, including the harshness of the pitch – which was detrimental to player’s joints. Sliding tackles often lead to friction burn. The pitches didn’t enhance player performance as footballs were difficult to control and fatigue levels were noted to be higher.
Eventually, these pitches were officially banned from English professional football after 1995 and artificial turf was replaced once more by their grass counterparts.
The revolution of 3G pitches
The 3G pitch emerged victorious in the early 2000s, after the failings of the first generation of artificial turf. The 3G turf was created to mirror real grass, with longer, thinly spaced tufts to ease the impact on players. Sand infills and rubber granules were also added to add both bounce and support.
According to the FA’s data, there were 780 registered 3G pitches in total for the 2016/17 season. Due to their all-year-round appeal, they’re primarily used by lower league sides and as training pitches.
With the help of technology, 3G evolves to 4G
Technology has taken 3G pitches to the next level, to 4G pitches. Created by growing natural grass around artificial blades – 4G technology combines the benefits of both natural and artificial pitches.
The main benefits of 4G pitches: they’re hard-wearing and low-maintenance. They’re also soft underfoot and have minimal impact on how players interact with the ball.