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For years FIFPro has been pushing for improvement in the quality of the pitches in professional football. A visit by FIFPro’s technical committee to the new state of the art training centre of Tottenham Hotspur, which will open this summer, was particularly valuable in this context.

 

Last Monday, the members of FIFPro’s Technical Committee could not have wished for a better guide than Darren Baldwin. Tottenham Hotspur’s head groundsman gave the group a tour of the 88 acre complex, which has 16 pitches and which will be attended to by a ground staff of 24 people.

 

Yet Baldwin soon makes it clear that it is all too easy to blame bad pitches on a lack of money. He calculates what is necessary to keep a naturally seeded pitch in the very best condition: ‘At the end of the season you have to Koro the pitch to remove all the vegetation and then seed it again. The annual costs for this are no more than 7 to 8,000 pounds.’

 

Baldwin gives three reasons for the poor condition of so many pitches in professional football: ‘Often the structure wasn’t right when the pitch was laid. In addition, the knowledge of the ground staff is insufficient and too little attention is paid to maintenance.’ 

 

Baldwin himself is a firm believer in reinforced grass pitches, and Tottenham makes use of Desso grassmaster. A clear demonstration of how the system works is given by the training pitches of the first team. The artificial fibres have already been laid with gaps of two centimetres, but the real grass has still to be sown. This will ultimately result in a robust surface with 70% natural grass and 30% artificial grass fibres. Baldwin: ‘Half of the Premier League already play on such pitches and we will also lay one in our new stadium, construction of which will start after the summer.’

 

Even with these fields, the top layer will be sown in afresh annually; special machines can remove the natural grass without damaging the artificial fibres.

 

Naturally, measures also have to be taken here to prevent the pitch from unnecessary wear and tear. Between the pitches at the trainings complex, special grids have been laid, where the warming-up and dribbling and sprinting can be done. In addition to the standard pitches, there are also smaller pitches for intensive keeper training. And close to the dressing-rooms, an artificial platform has been constructed for stretching and exercises with dumbbells and other small material.

 

The complex also features two artificial pitches, which will be mainly used for training the youth. Baldwin: ‘Without the artificial pitches, our complex would have had to be much larger.’

 

On the pitches, attention has been paid to the details. The normal artificial pitch has blades that are 50 mm in length, but on the smaller keepers pitch next to it, the artificial grass blades are 10 mm longer. Baldwin: ‘We did that at the special request of our keepers. They complained of the rubber grains getting in their eyes where making their dives. By making the blades one centimetre longer, we have been able to prevent that.’

 

The new training complex of Tottenham Hotspur will be taken into use in July this year.