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RNT pitches increasingly viable for Non-League clubs

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 14:14

The popularity of synthetic pitches within top-level sport is growing year-on-year and no more so than within football.

3G surfaces were allowed within this season’s FA Cup for the first time and Premier League teams and the national side are increasingly utilizing them for both training and match purposes.

In the lower tiers of English football clubs, such as Maidstone United and Oxford City, are turning to synthetic pitches to help combat the practical and financial burdens that plague natural surfaces during the winter months. Yet for some, there is nothing that can replace the feeling of a natural grass field, making Reinforced Natural Turf (RNT) a viable option for both elite and amateur clubs.

Championed by elite stadia including Wembley, RNT, sometimes referred to as a ‘Hybrid Surface’, is predominantly a natural grass pitch reinforced with millios of synthetic turf fibres, that has been used across football, rugby, Australian Rules and American football.

The surface provides users with the look and feel of natural grass, with the assured longevity and added value of synthetic turf making it the perfect hybrid option for those who are hesitant to consider a 100% synthetic turf pitch.

Jason Booth, IOG National Manager of the Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme, clarifies, ‘Many 3G pitches are seen as a necessity rather than a preference, due to location conditions amongst other factors. Modern day players prefer grass surfaces; however Reinforced Natural Turf presents a compromise by offering the best of both worlds.’

Mike Harbridge, a specialized surface consultant, goes further, ‘Reinforced Natural Turf is definitely the way forward; however clubs need to choose an RNT system which suits their surface requirements, as each has its own merits performance characteristics and sustainability.’

Much like full synthetic pitches, there are many reasons for clubs to switch to RNT. The durability provided by intertwining natural grass roots with synthetic yarn creates a pitch that can undertake several times as many playing hours as traditional natural turf, facilitating more intensive training and match schedules and exposing clubs to additional revenue streams through pitch rental and community use. Income drawn from the pitch and the club house is also kept intact by RNT’s resistance to the weather, with matches unaffected by heavy rain and thick snow fall that cause havoc during winter months.

For the coaching and development of young players football as a whole has noted the merits of RNT, which improves grip and ball control through the provision of a consistent surface all year round. The yarn itself is also incredibly soft and industry research and practical application have shown no link between artificial turf and an increased risk of injury. With shock absorption and compliance with Head Impact Criteria guidelines now a must in modern day pitches, players have nothing to worry about.

Maintenance is also reduced with fewer man hours needed to maintain RNT’s quality and characteristics.

Reinforced Natural Turf is now not only seen as a viable option for clubs that choose to use and maintain natural grass. It is a highly sought after system which enhances the speed of the game, player performance, playability of a stadium and financial returns.

Article: Tom Mellor



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