Derby County FC has announced bold plans to build six new pitches using a new British grass system that is taking world football by storm.
In a statement of their ambitions, the east midlands club has signed a multi-million pound deal with Cumbria-based SIS Pitches to install their evolutionary SISGRASS ‘reinforced natural grass’ at the iPro Stadium and Moor Farm training facilities.
SISGRASS involves injecting, or ‘stitching’, more than 240 million lengths of synthetic yarn directly into a pitch – a total of 150 miles – which provide a critical anchor point for natural grass roots to bind onto.
The result is an immaculate surface that is up to seven times as hard-wearing as natural grass alone and yet offers softer, safer and more consistent playing characteristics for today’s injury-conscious players.
The Derby County news comes just two days after innovative grass company SIS Pitches announced SISGRASS has been chosen as the bespoke surface for the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow – the first time anything but natural grass has been permitted for the world’s most prestigious sporting event.
The Rams board gave the go-ahead for an identical system after head coach, Paul Clement, and his squad tested the surface during a full training session at the FA’s centre of excellence at St. George’s Park recently.
Clement came off the St. George’s Park pitch having been told it had just been used for two weeks solid by the Irish and Argentinian rugby world cup squads and declared:
It’s still absolutely perfect.
This kind of pitch allows us to play the football style we want and has a very even roll and bounce. It has the ‘give’ we are looking for and meets all of our requirements.
Assistant Coach and former England striker, Kevin Phillips, commented:
I loved it and the training session went very well. It’s fast and consistent.
Chelsea, Besiktas and Hull City have already installed the system, which was only launched last summer and SIS Pitches claims a long line of other football and rugby clubs are poised to take advantage.
Clement and his squad lie handily placed in the Championship table as the historic club bids to return to the English Premier League (EPL) at the end of this season. For him and increasing numbers of other top clubs SISGRASS is seen as an element offering a vital edge.
Backroom staff were won over by the promise of longer and better training with faster grass recovery and simpler maintenance on a pitch that is still 95% natural and is indistinguishable from all-natural grass.
John Vicars, Chief Operating Officer for Derby County FC commented:
Derby County is delighted to be using SISGRASS at both the iPro Stadium and the Training Centre.
We want the best quality surfaces right the way across the club and in SISGRASS we have chosen what we believe to be the highest level of innovative reinforced natural turf.
The club trialled the SISGRASS pitches recently at St George’s Park and the quality was particularly impressive. The coaching staff and players felt comfortable on it and that is extremely important for us.
SISGRASS installs within a week and is fitted by SIS Pitches, who fully understand natural and synthetic grass, which we believe makes them a perfect partner.
The Rams will wait until summer to install SISGRASS at the i-Pro Stadium. But work on the five training pitches, including a match pitch, are scheduled to start in Spring, using construction firm Talbots to perform construction work.
According to the company, their ability to install a pitch in a week is a key advantage SISGRASS holds over its rivals, as it means clubs can potentially install the system during mid-season breaks if required.
When it set out to create the ultimate playing surface in 2014, Cumbria-based SIS Pitches tasked Dutch engineers with designing a patented ‘giant sewing machine on tracks’. This machine methodically crawls across a pitch implanting, or ‘stitching’, laser guided precision rows of more than 240 million lengths of two-tone green synthetic yarn 180mm deep into the sub-surface.
Three times faster to install than rival systems with 50% more yarn, SISGRASS has been proven to promote healthier grass rootzones up to 10 inches deep, which allow more intensive use with faster recovery and drainage in foul weather.
The company says it is also more forgiving than all-natural grass when club chairman seek to use their facilities for hosting revenue-producing events.
SIS Pitches chose a tough test-bed for the new system when it installed the first SISGRASS pitch under the withering eye of St George’s Park Head Groundsman Alan Ferguson, probably the nation’s most senior pitch expert.
But Ferguson has been quick to back SISGRASS after supervising the top secret, patented laser-guided injector machine with SIS Pitches Project Director Phil Blackwell, himself a former Ipswich Town Head Groundsman.
Holding up a rootzone core, showing healthy 10 inch deep grassroots, Ferguson commented:
It’s not typical to see this amount of healthy rootzone in any pitch and for a reinforced natural grass turf system it is the best I’ve seen.
SIS Pitches CEO George Mullan, who rescued the firm’s Cumbria-based factory from demolition just 10 years ago remarked:
Derby are ambitious and for them to choose this product for six new pitches is a vindication of all our hard work and innovation.
He forecasts SISGRASS will eventually dominate world football and rugby with further usage in American Football and equestrian events.
Image: Derby players practising on SISGRASS for first time at St. George’s Park.