Pitch Maintenance

A well-maintained pitch optimises playing conditions, minimises potential for injury and maximises longevity of the pitch thus increasing revenue.

A major advantage of synthetic turf over natural grass is that there is a greatly reduce maintenance requirement. However, this does not mean no maintenance.

It is extremely important to understand that sufficient maintenance must be performed to ensure the pitch is kept in top condition. This applies both to filled and unfilled pitches. Filled pitches refer to pitches filled with sand or materials simulating sand.

The advice below is generic. The detailed maintenance requirements of a pitch depend on the individual turf carpet and shock pad used. It is crucial to follow the maintenance specifications set out by the manufacturer or installer.

Design and Construction
Many facets of good maintenance practice can be incorporated into the design and construction phase of the project. Steps can be taken to keep the pitch and adjacent areas free of litter, gravel, grit, mud, dirt, oil and toxic materials including:

  • Landscaping with non-leaf-shedding trees and bushes
  • Installation of concrete or asphalt paths
  • Specification of static and rolling load limits
  • Control of access to minimise the possibility of vehicles entering the pitch area
  • Availability of synthetic turf practice or warm-up areas
  • Provision of markings and extra goals for cross-pitch practice
  • Routing of player traffic to minimise tracking of impurities
  • Installation of brushes, sluices and mats for cleaning boots – and a requirement that boots are cleaned before entering pitch area
  • Setting up food and beverage facilities well away from the pitch
  • Strategic placement of rubbish bins with provision for regular emptying
  • Erection of prominent signs designating required positive actions and prohibitions for everyone 
Construction must be closely monitored to ensure that specifications are adhered to, that inspection is thorough and that any corrections have been satisfactorily completed.

Prohibitions, Monitoring and Inspection
Positive actions required and activities which are prohibited should be identified and a notice of them posted clearly and prominently. Adequate supervision should be maintained to ensure these actions and prohibitions are adhered to by all players and users and that failure to observe them results in appropriate sanctions. Prohibitions include:

  • No smoking
  • No animals
  • No golfing or other similar pursuits
  • No chewing gum (but note that this can sometimes be removed with the use of dry ice - CO2) or spitting
  • No food or drinks (except water)
  • No glass containers or bottles 
  • No sharp tags on boots or stiletto heeled shoes
Periodic monitoring and inspection must be incorporated into routines. This should be linked to warranty requirements. Appointment of a Facility Manager to carry out these duties helps to ensure that vital tasks are done.

Preventative Maintenance
A very important aspect of maintenance for an irrigated pitch is to ensure that it is properly watered for all activities (matches and practices). Visit our irrigation page here for more information. Periodic monitoring and inspection actions include:

  • Close watch and early action for algae invasion on unfilled pitches, especially in warmer climates
  • Constant vigilance for moss on filled pitches
  • Attention to seam separation, rips and tears in turf and observation of worn areas
  • Frequent collection of foreign material from the pitch area (litter, canteen waste, tape, gum, etc.)
  • Sweep up grass, leaves, twigs and cones regularly
  • Clean up organic materials such as food, faeces, compost, mud, etc.
  • Empty bins frequently to ensure they do not overflow
  • Cross-brush a filled pitch regularly
  • Repair minor damage promptly
  • Report more serious damage or repair problems immediately to manufacturers
  • Attend to any watering system problems promptly
If lines or seams come loose, repair them as soon as possible. A loose seam running a few centimetres can quickly become several metres unless quick action is taken. Furthermore, maintain complete and accurate details of maintenance regimen, including a record of monitory inspection.

Routine Care of Turf Carpet (Sweeping/Brushing)

This may be done by the pitch owner. It involves minor maintenance requiring no specialised equipment: 

  • Remove litter, grass, leaves, twigs, cones, other organic materials and coarse dirt
  • Use a synthetic lawn rake, a sweeper or a blower (when using a sweeper or blower on a filled pitch, make sure not to sweep up or re-distribute too much of the sand)
  • On filled pitches (including "dressed" pitches) regular sweeping with a triangle brush is highly recommended; do not use metal brushes
  • Remove micro-grindings which tend to "cake” when combined with heavy rainfall; use a plastic or wooden snow-shovel
  • When using machines with engines, take care not to leak oil; if a tractor is used, check that tyre pressures conform to limits set 
Periodic Major Cleaning of Turf Carpet (Unfilled)
This requires specialised equipment and should be carried out in consultation with the manufacturer:

  • Remove impurities such as fine soiling from worn fibres, airborne dust, smoke and chemical emissions, fine sand particles and other organic materials
  • Special machinery is available to carry out the required in-depth suction cleaning of the pitch
  • Before using a machine on the pitch, the surface should always be carefully inspected; any weakened adhesive seams and line intersections must be repaired before cleaning begins
Treatment of algae
Algae growth is a natural occurrence caused by humidity:

  • The first sign is usually that, in patches, the green turf turns brown and becomes very slippery
  • As a preventive measure, spraying the surface at given intervals with an approved algae killer is recommended; an alternative option may be feeding this product through the existing irrigation system by using a metered addition unit
More information about the treatment of algae is provided in the FIH 'Handbook for Care and Maintenance of Synthetic Turf Hockey pitches. A copy of this can be found here.

Filled pitches are not so affected by algae attacks but may be subject to moss and weed growth:

  • Early detection is important
  • With moss, high-pressure water cleaning is the best measure
  • With weeds, removal by hand is usually adequate, taking care not to damage the turf or its sub-base 
  • If the problem is not solved, weedicide may be required but refer to the manufacturer or contractor. Take into account also any environmental restrictions that may apply to the use of such chemicals 
Repairs to Seams, Tears and Line Markings
Loose lines, seams, etc. must be repaired as soon as possible:

  • Seams of an unfilled pitch, particularly on a loose-laid surface, are especially at risk
  • If problems are detected early and reported to the manufacturer or contractor, it is usually possible to effect a repair by re-gluing or re-sewing seams
  • Line markings are best left to manufacturers' instructions because they are often specific to the type of turf 
Treatment of Chemicals and Stains
Various toxic chemicals may accidentally come in contact with the turf:

  • Remedial treatment will depend on the chemical and type of turf
  • Reference to manufacturer instructions is advised 
Major Treatment of Filled Pitch (Rejuvenation)
Periodically, a basic maintenance procedure should be carried out to cleanse the pitch:

  • The amount of sand is checked
  • Seams and woven-in lines are checked for tears and loose parts
  • Weeds are removed; the perimeter of the pitch is treated with herbicide
  • All loose refuse and coarse impurities are cleaned from the surface
  • The sand filling is extracted, cleaned and brushed back in
  • The pitch is brushed again to remove all remaining loose refuse
  • Any "spots" are supplied with extra sand
  • As the turf wears, less sand is required to fill it so that any surplus can be removed, cleaned and stored for later filling of low spots 
During major maintenance, it is opportune to check all accessories such as goals, bench areas, flag poles, etc. as well as fences and gates. They should be repaired or replaced as necessary.

Please note
: Information has been adapted from the FIH guide to installing hockey pitches and facilities.