ICL’s Surprising Connection to World Football
Many do not realize that ICL is a major influencer, supply partner and advisor when it comes to cultivating the turfgrass in major football pitches across the world. ICL’s international technical expertise and products in sportsturf fertilizers and grass seeds help to contribute towards all year-round high-quality playing surfaces that are graced by the football stars we all love to watch playing.
In warm-climate countries the real turfgrass renovation process repeats itself every November and lasts for three weeks: Football fans in these countries become frustrated, and so do the players — who have only just started enjoying the cooler autumn weather playing conditions — because the league must be put on hold, to do these important renovations. It is difficult to find a football enthusiast in any of these countries who is not familiar with the term “replanting recess” but fans in other places in the world may not understand what all this commotion is about.
Here is an explanation of the renovation process for those who do not live in the warmer parts of the world. In these areas, the climate requires stadiums to use two types of turfgrass — one for the winter and another for the summer. For games to take place throughout the year, pitch managers must replant the turfgrass twice a year, for the simple reason that summer grass varieties cannot grow in the winter because of the colder weather conditions, and vice versa.
During the “replanting recess” summer grasses are taken off the pitches and winter grass seed varieties are sown along with advanced sports turf fertilizers to create new turfgrass pitches that are strong, green and ready for the colder playing conditions ahead. The period for this work is chosen for good reason: Three weeks is a realistic time for the grass seeds to germinate and achieve good rooting in the ground. Until this happens, players cannot play or train on the pitch.
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In Europe, for example, the situation is completely different. The weather allows for playing football all year round with turfgrass varieties and advanced fertilizers able to keep the pitches green and in healthy playing conditions even at the height of summer. Within all such differing growing regimes and climates, ICL is a leader in the advice and supply of professional products to deliver quality turf playing surfaces whatever the conditions are.
“There are many types of turfgrass, and what suits one stadium may not suit another”
The ICL business leader whose teams across the globe advise and support the growing and cultivating of many of the world’s major football stadium pitches is ICL Specialty Fertilizers Turf and Ornamental lead by Wolter Van Rest. His technical field sales teams advise stadium managers responsible to make sure our favorite and much-loved football stars show their skills on the best quality playing surfaces.
In some of these stadium pitches we see an increase in the use of “hybrid pitches”, which is a combination of natural grass seeds and synthetic fibers. These new pitches are trialled and tested extensively over a period before they are implemented into football clubs’ main stadium pitches.
“There are many types of turfgrass, and what suits one stadium may not suit another,” explains Van Rest. “Before choosing a type of turfgrass it is important to find out many details, such as how long the football season lasts; what the pitch geographical location is; what the climate is like; who will play on the pitch — professionals or amateurs — and what the playing use and intensity will be on the pitch. Only then you can make the correct choice of turfgrass that will ensure strength and durability all through the playing season.”
A quick look at football fields around the world proves a link between the quality of the pitches and the quality of gameplay. However, in recent times continued investment in the quality of playing surfaces can also be found at the pitches of football teams that are not considered football giants. Who can remember that only two decades ago players would struggle on muddy pitches with sand often applied to prevent pitches becoming waterlogged?
Van Rest claims that it’s not just the pitches that have changed over the past few years, it is also the advancement in nutrition technologies and grass seed varieties. “Today we know how to find solutions that did not exist in the past,” he says. “For example, if the pitch is located in a country with high rainfall, we at ICL have the products and advisory tools to improve water drainage from the pitch surface, improve turfgrass rooting and health, so that the games will never be interrupted.”
ICL’s teams in Europe are advising and offering product solutions to many of the largest football clubs. They receive extensive agronomic and technical consultation which ensures the strong development and cultivation for football pitch surfaces. To all of them, Van Rest sends his regular message: “A stronger and healthier grass plant will need less maintenance overall and is part of providing the optimum playing surfaces.”