All Plastic At White Rock

Friday, 1 April 2005, 0:00
2 mins read

It was originally planned to grow the stadium grass from seed but after careful deliberation, StadCo, the stadium management company has decided that they will take advantage of grants on offer to provide a completely plastic pitch within the stadium which will meet guidelines laid down by both UEFA and the IRB (International Rugby Board)

For the past three weeks, plastic has been laid into the surface inside the stadium with the original plan being that this would knit into the genuine grass to form a surface that would see it impossible to take a divot.

Plastic pitches were tried initially in the early 1980s at places such as Luton and Oldham but soon dug up after erratic bounces of the ball and also the need for player to wear tracksuit bottoms as protection due to the possibility of burns coming from sliding along the surface. However, 20 years on these problems do not exist with plastic pitches and many of the top types of plastic now feel as authentic as real grass and also provide the same level of bounce for the ball.

The good news for the Stadium management company is that the cost of the surface will work out cheaper than seeding and maintaining a grass pitch and they also will qualify for a UEFA grant of £150,000 towards the cost of around £500,000 for providing this. It is also understood that the International Rugby Board are prepared to fund up to £50,000 towards the surface and have provisionally pencilled in one of the World Cup fixtures of 2007 to be moved from the Millennium Stadium to White Rock.

Aberdeen were the last side in Britain to consider moving to a plastic pitch again (see BBC news report at this link) but decided against the move as UEFA designated then that it would only be allowed in domestic competition and not any European ties. But with that level of competition out of the reach of the Swans it does not prove to be an issue for Stadco.

There was an initial concern about internationals at White Rock but UEFA have decreed that because the fixtures there will only be friendlies it does not compromise that chance although it does rule White Rock out of the running for any World Cup or European qualifiers in the future.

The second stumbling block to overcome was the necessity to get agreements that the Ospreys could use a plastic surface in both the Celtic League and the European Cup but that has been agreed with the IRB who are keen to monitor the success of the plastic pitch particularly as they have raised recent concerns over the suitability of the Mill Stad pitch following the recent six nations problems. They believe that plastic pitches could enhance the game of rugby and if a success it could be that White Rock is the pioneering stadium that could change the face of rugby.

It has been reported that the maintaining of the White Rock pitch will cost in excess of £150,000 per season and an extra £50,000 to reseed the pitch every summer. The cost of the plastic pitch although £500,000 up front will be partially funded by the £200,000 of grants available and within two years will prove to be a cheaper option to the stadium management company who are already facing a £2 million shortfall in the cost of the project.

Work is expected to start on the remainder of the pitch on April 11 with completion anticipated for May 20, two weeks before the clubs make the move of their office staff into the stadium premises. The first game on the plastic surface will be on July 23 against Fulham although both codes are expected to undertake large proportions of their pre-season training within the stadium to get used to the plastic.

Another first for White Rock?

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

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