Written by Tom Murgatroyd
The notion that the UK, and England more specifically, is still the epicentre of the footballing world is considered somewhat farfetched in most parts of globe. Some may argue that due to inferior results on the pitch over a period of time that now stretches 55 years, other nations have outgrown them and sit above them within the echelons of international football.
When it comes to the surfaces that the game is played on at the highest level however, the UK is far and away the global leader in Sports Turf Manufacturing and Management. The English grounds-management sector is worth more than £1bn alone, providing jobs for more than 27,000 people with specialists pushing the boundaries in every area imaginable. From scientists who cultivate chemicals to alter the aesthetic appearance of grass for TV audiences, to seed specialists who can produce various grasses that grow in the shade and recover from use at a more efficient rate.
The intricacies of improving a product in an environment where the margins are miniscule means that no stone can ever be left unturned in pursuit of the perfect surface. The Sports Turf Research Institute in West Yorkshire is pioneering the push for perfection, conducting R&D to the greatest of degrees, examining everything from the effect the diameter of a stem of grass has on a balls ability to roll fluidly to how efficiently water passes through various kinds of sand.
The endless development isn’t just limited to the processes with which the materials in use can be enhanced either; companies such as Bernhard and Company, Allet and Dennis produce industry pioneering hardware. Bernhard and Company manufacture the world’s best sharpening systems for mower blades, Allet and Dennis manufacture unrivalled maintenance and mowing equipment. This machinery is used across the globe within the greatest sporting arenas; Wembley, The Parc Des Princes, Camp Nou, and Old Trafford just to name a few.
This evolution isn’t restricted to football either; the progression of Turf Manufacturing and Management from its UK hub has stretched far beyond its origins, with rugby, golf, tennis and every other sport played on grass the world over using the techniques and tools developed to create the greatest environment attainable.
This is not to say that the surface on which a sport is played will be the most crucial factor in deciding the outcome but, at the elite level of sport where the difference between success and failure amount to an inch, each blade of grass counts. There is no sign of the pursuit of perfection slowing down, and the industry leaders within the UK continue to push the boundaries of innovation to find the perfect formula, come rain or on the odd occasion, come sunshine.