What is a Hybrid Football Pitch?

By on February 4, 2019

Football is arguably one of the oldest British pastimes. Throughout history, it has undergone many changes to become the modern sport it is today. The rules were officially written by the first football regulatory body known as the ‘Football Association’ in 1863. In its infancy, football was played on plain old regular grass. From farm fields to public parks, if there was space to play, then it could be transformed into a football pitch, for 90 minutes at least!

So how did pitches become the pristine, intricate grounds we see each matchday? As the crowds of spectators grew so did the technology available.

Undersoil Heating

The story of pitch development begins at Goodison Park. In 1892, the stadium was built to house Everton football club, for an estimated fee of £3,000. It even came with an elementary drainage system, to prevent the pitch from getting waterlogged. In 1958, Everton made the decision to lay  20 miles of electric cable underneath the turf. This decision cost the club over 5 times the initial construction costs and certainly cost more in the years that followed. It did, however, help prevent the pitch from freezing over. Undersoil heating now exists in every stadium up and down the country.

Safe Standing

The first stadium terraces resembled bleachers, with their tall wooden structure. They were built to give fans a great view of the game as events unfolded. In 1902, one of these structures collapsed at the Rangers ground, the Ibrox. 45 people lost their lives and many more were injured.

After the disaster, all terraces had to be supported by solid ground. The terraces became the port of call for working class people, who couldn’t afford the expensive, seated stands. It was at this point that the infamous terraces were born, which fans began unofficially naming. This was when the ‘Spion Kop’ was coined, a name that honoured a battle in the Boer War. You would be surprised to discover that it was indeed Arsenal fans who first used the term, even though it was most famously adopted by Liverpool fans.

Disaster struck again on the terraces in 1946, as 33 people died at a match between Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City. In the 1970’s we saw the birth of ‘Hooliganism’, with violence erupting at almost every fixture; the decision was made to segregate home and away terraces following a series of clashes and police intervention.

In 1989, one of football’s most devastating events occurred, as Liverpool took on Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough stadium. Various controversial security errors were made, and 96 Liverpool fans died that day. The catastrophic accident spurred a report by Lord Justice Peter Taylor.

The Taylor Report gave the recommendation that turnstiles be introduced as well as all major stadiums implementing fully-seated policies. The government made the decision to ban standing areas throughout the country, despite Taylor stating that he did not believe standing terraces were ‘intrinsically unsafe’.

Hybrid Turf

Initially, football pitches were more mud than they were green; it was hard to keep the pitches from becoming waterlogged, especially in the British climate. In the 1960s the first form of artificial turf appeared in America,  consisting of a rigid nylon fibre layered on top of a concrete surface.

The first time artificial turf featured on British pitches was in the 1980s, but it was soon banned in 1995. In the early 2000s, footballing bodies took a second look at the pitches to come up with a standard for artificial turf. In 2010, fourth-generation pitches were introduced, often referred to as 4G.

(Image via Pbroks13. Under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Artificial pitches intertwine natural grass with synthetic fibres. Most often there is a base layer of rubber granules or sand, known as infill, which helps the grass to spring back up and prevents patches of damage. There are various different processes, but this is the one used by most football stadiums.

Since the pitches have improved, so have the way in which the lines are marked on a pitch.  Historically you could visit any pitch and visibly notice wobbly lines, all with different widths. Line marking applicators are now more accurate than ever thanks to precise technology. .

If you are looking to improve your football pitch with a professional line marking equipment check out Bowcom’s site for their full list of equipment.

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Bowcom is a leading supplier of professional line-marking equipment. They have been providing marking and applicator materials for over 30 years.