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What makes a pitch worth ‘a million dollars’? Arsenal’s deal secures its second stadium.

by Andrew Crawshaw

The ‘million dollar’ quote is from the Borehamwood FC Chairman following the completion of the installation of the ‘Desso’ pitch at the ground Arsenal will be using for its PL2 and Ladies fixtures for at least the next 10 years.

In this article, as a preview to both the opening of the ground and the first of what will be many Arsenal games at the ground, we look at both the Desso pitch, and how Arsenal and Borehamwood football clubs have come together to upgrade this ground and make it Arsenal’s permanent second home.

The Desso Pitch

We have all heard about Desso pitches and probably know that they are a combination of grass and artificial fibres but until yesterday that was about the extent of my knowledge.  I did some digging around to find out more following my article on the Borehamwood v Arsenal friendly match and I thought I would share my new found knowledge.

Desso are a international company who produce carpets, artificial grass and hybrid grass systems amongst other things.  There are now more than 590 hybrid grass systems installed around the world including the Emirates and now Borehamwood.  They cover football, NFL, Rugby Super league teams, Multisport venues amongst others.

Desso GrassMaster® hybrid grass is a 100% natural grass pitch reinforced by millions of Desso artificial turf fibres.  The natural grass roots intertwine with the 200mm long injected fibres and form a dense root system that ensures a stable surface and enables typically 3 times the playing time possible on a normal grass pitch.

There is a good video on the Borehamwood FC site which has an interview with Arsenal Assistant Groundsman, Ben Howell, which covers the benefits of the pitch system and shows the installation of the fibres.  If you have a few minutes you might like to follow the link to the interview.

WHY IS A DESSO PITCH SO SPECIAL? ARSENAL GROUNDSMAN

If you haven’t got the time here are the basics.

  1. Start with a good underground pitch drainage system – if water landing on the surface of the pitch can’t drain away in a timely fashion you will never be able to establish a good grass system.  This will comprise a network of interconnected perforated pipes which will eventually discharge to a local sewer or watercourse.  By pumping water into this system you can also provide watering to the root system or frost protection by using warm water.
  2. Install a layer of gravel to enclose the drainage pipes to ensure a free drainage path into the pipes.
  3. Lay a separating membrane to stop fine particles from washing downwards and blocking the holes in the pipes or the voids in the gravel.
  4. Lay a growing mixture of sand and compost for the grass to grow in.  This layer needs to be about 225 to 250mm thick to allow for the installation of the ‘Desso’ strands which are pushed 200mm from the surface.
  5. Plant your grass seed or install a suitable pre-grown turf.
  6. Take 15 days (or thereabouts) to install the Desso grass reinforcement system.  This is a network of woven plastic strands which are punched through the grass into the growing medium.  200mm below ground and approximately 15 to 20 mm left above ground.  The strands are punched on a 2 * 2cm grid across the whole of the pitch surface so that is a lot of holes.  In total the strands amount to approximately 3% of the pitch surface area.
  7. Mow the grass to a length that is 10 to 15mm longer than the protruding strands – you don’t want the mower blades removing the fibres!

You now have a pitch that won’t cut up and will be consistent in terms of bounce and will look fantastic throughout the season, no matter how many times you play on it.  In short the same pitch as you see week by week at the Emirates and now at non-league Borehamwood.

The Borehamwood and Arsenal link

Arsenal have signed a ‘Staging Agreement’ with Borehamwood FC to hold our PL2 (Under 23) matches and our Ladies Fixtures at their ground for the next 10 years and with the extra games it won’t take long for the benefits of the new pitch to be realised.

This arrangement ended speculation that Arsenal might follow Manchester City in building their own secondary stadium that could be used for these fixtures, and in every respect makes perfect sense, as it allows Arsenal to support a club that is very much on the up, and with whom it has excellent links for a good many years.

Borehamwood Football Club will celebrate its 70th Anniversary at the end of the forthcoming 2017/18 season, having been formed in 1948 following the amalgamation of Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez.

In its formative years the club progressed through the Mid-Herts, Parthenon, Spartan and Athenian Leagues.  But 2016/17 saw the club reach 11th place National League finish – an extraordinary achievement for a club that has most recently risen through both the Ryman Leagues, through the Conference South and into the National League Premier.

£1.8 million has been invested in the club this summer, to build a new training facility, lay the new DESSO pitch of Premier League quality, install new floodlights and dugouts meaning the facilities are now 90% utilised on a daily basis, 52 weeks of the year.

The club also houses the largest sports education programme in the whole country, which has now been established for well over a decade. It is a programme that boasts over 575 scholar/students and the club has already registered a possible 600 for the next academic year and the 2017/18 season.

Last season

And in case you fancy going for the first time, Borehamwood lies within the triangle formed by the M25 in the north, the M1 to the west and the A1 to the east.  The full address is Meadow Park, Broughinge Road, Borehamwood, Herts, WD6 5AL, and there are directions to the ground here.

Here’s last season’s table for the club – but we might now notice that Borehamwood will have a London derby against Leyton Orient in the coming season.

#
Team
P
W
D
L
F
A
GD
Pts
1
Lincoln City
46
30
9
7
83
40
43
99
2
Tranmere
46
29
8
9
79
39
40
95
3
Forest Green Rovers
46
25
11
10
88
56
32
86
4
Dagenham & Redbridge
46
26
6
14
79
53
26
84
5
Aldershot Town
46
23
13
10
66
37
29
82
6
Dover Athletic
46
24
7
15
85
63
22
79
7
Barrow
46
20
15
11
72
53
19
75
8
Gateshead
46
19
13
14
72
51
21
70
9
Macclesfield Town
46
20
8
18
64
57
7
68
10
Bromley
46
18
8
20
59
66
-7
62
11
Boreham Wood
46
15
13
18
49
48
1
58
12
Sutton United
46
15
13
18
61
63
-2
58
13
Wrexham
46
15
13
18
47
61
-14
58
14
Maidstone United
46
16
10
20
59
75
-16
58
15
Eastleigh FC
46
14
15
17
56
63
-7
57
16
Solihull Moors
46
15
10
21
62
75
-13
55
17
Torquay United
46
14
11
21
54
61
-7
53
18
Woking
46
14
11
21
66
80
-14
53
19
Chester FC
46
14
10
22
63
71
-8
52
20
Guiseley
46
13
12
21
50
67
-17
51
21
York City
46
11
17
18
55
70
-15
50
22
Braintree Town
46
13
9
24
51
76
-25
48
23
Southport FC
46
10
9
27
52
97
-45
39
24
North Ferriby United
46
12
3
31
32
82
-50
39

We’ll be reporting on the PL2 games and the Arsenal Ladies games at the ground.  Last season Borehamwood had an average crowd of just 477 – the lowest in the National League – their highest crowd being 1002.  This compares with an average crowd for Lincoln of 5161, and it is very much to be hoped that the improvements to the ground will encourage more to turn up.

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7 comments to What makes a pitch worth ‘a million dollars’? Arsenal’s deal secures its second stadium.

  • Dom

    Well indeed what will they invent next…self seeding grass ?
    Well done to both clubs

  • Gord

    FYI

    The video plays okay here, but I cannot get any volume. So I’ve no idea what the groundsman says.

    Lawns (and sports pitches) are a little unusual. In the garden, we typically do things to enhance the ability to grow, or to kill. With a lawn, the object is more to continuously wound.

    When, how and how often a lawn is mowed, is more a function of how to wound as little as possible, the grasses that make up the bulk of the lawn. If you cut the lawn too short, you don’t leave enough above ground material to make new sugars and other materials via photosynthesis. The object of cutting is to remove less than 1/3 of the total grass blade length. This determines in large part how long between cuttings.

    A newer ingredient in lawns, is the incorporation of microclover. Microclover is a white clover with very small leaves and flowers. It is a perennial clover. It typically sends down deep roots, and can bring up water from deeper than grass roots extend. In addition, the roots can form relationships with special bacteria to “fix” nitrogen, which provides nitrogen fertilizer to the clover and the grasses. The constant supply of nitrogen should allow the grass to recover faster, and the resulting surface tends to be “more green” than a surface that is just grass. Where I am in western Canada, microclover tends to run about $100 per pound of seed. I do not know if this surface incorporates microclover.

    We are finding that a healthy soil needs a variety of bacteria and fungi living in it for best results. Fungi often do the bulk of the work in fetching mineral nutrients and transporting them to the roots of the grasses.

    If a person drives over the same patch of ground many times, you will find that the soil compacts. Compact soil has less room for air which the roots needs, as well as less room for water. It is typical for grounds equipment to use pneumatic tires that are quite large, running at low pressure to minimize compaction. These tires typically tend to have rounded lugs in the tread pattern, so as to minimize compaction as well.

    Athletes wearing cleats will also compact the soil. I don’t know how this is avoided.

    Good soils tend to have high carbon contents. This includes things like “bio-char”. In the old days, this might be called charcoal or activated charcoal. The surface of the carbon particles is active, and adsorbs species like phosphate and potassium as well as water.

    It is likely that the fibres have a special coating (likely called a sizing), to promote certain kinds of interactions with the “matrix”. Some fibres have low extensino to failure values (glass, carbon fibre) and other fibres have long extension to failure (ballistic nylon). What fibres Desso uses?

  • Gord

    OT: News about Santi

    Marca has an article on Santi, and his attempt to get back to health and play again.

    http://www.marca.com/en/football/international-football/2017/07/27/5979dfaa468aebd0458b4577.html

    You have to give him credit, he is trying very hard. I hope he makes it back.

  • WalterBroeckx

    And well for once I can be a bit proud as Desso is a Belgian company and has worldwide installed pitches.
    In France they have also laid the pitch in the Stade de France and in the Parque de Prince (home of PSG).
    The company is from Dendermonde a place between Antwerp and Gent.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Hmmm. Talking on the average attendance of 477 fans who had been turning out to watch Borehamwood home League games every weekend last season and their highest attendance at home been 1002 so far, don’t we think that, as a result of having so many professional and amateur football clubs in London, Borehamwood FC weekly home attendance may not rise beyond the level it’s now until they’ve gained promotion to the Nationwide football League and from there went up and up to the Sky Bet Football Championship Division One. Then, will they see a gradual improvement in their home game attendance.

    So it’s wasn’t the 4G pitch Borehamwood had installed for themselves on their main football Stadium ground as I thought they did when I commented yesterday on the issue, but it’s a Desco pitch they’ve installed for themselves with of course the financial and expertise helps support by Arsenal which were accorded them to carry out the general renovations of the Stadium at a whopping cost of £1.8m. Arsenal who must have contributed half of that amount of money will themselves be using this Stadium as their playing home ground for the Arsenal Ladies home League and Cup matches while their other aged group teams will also be using the Stadium to play their home matches too.

    In this regard, Arsenal have tremendously tried for Borehamwood FC and itself by given their money and their human expertise out to Borehamwood management to jointly have this Stadium given a top face lift, notably in the provisions of modern grassing of the Stadium’s football playing pitch, the erection of high tech flood light system and the bringing in of the modern dogouts for use by the home and the away teams being the highlight of other installations installed at Borehamwood FC. Bravo!

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    But come to think of it, I have never been to England to the All England Club Wimbledon Tennis Championship in London to watch a duel match between any of the top seed tennis players. But wait a minutes, if wishes were horses, won’t beggars ride in Paradise?

    Anyway, I’ve been noticing when watching the playing of the matches on TV during the staging of the tournament and have been seen the grass laying on the tennis courts get fading as the playing of matches on them progresses by the day during the staging of the annual event when the green grass looking colour turned to brown colour at the ends of the feet movements of the 2 opposing players and by the sides of the tennis ball boys/girls. Haven just become informed of the advantage the Desco grass has over the natural grass which maybe it’s what the Wimbledon courts are still grassed with, if so, can’t then the Wimbledon authorities try the Desco grass on their courts to see if the initial grass looking colour at the onset of the tournament will remain green and not become fade as the playing on the courts progresses? Well, I believe these Wimbledon officials must have known more on grassing their courts correctly than I am now imaging it for them to try.

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