Construction has begun on the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) first floodlit artificial grass pitches (AGPs) at Aylesbury, Preston and Weston Super Mare.
The three pitches are part of the RFU’s Rugby World Cup 2015 legacy of delivering over GBP£50m investment over four years into the development of 100 AGPs across England.
Once all AGPs are built it is anticipated that grassroots rugby will see 16,000 new regular participants taking up the sport as a result of greater access to quality playing facilities across the country.
The major driver for installing artificial pitches is to sustain and grow participation in the game against a backdrop of adverse weather conditions and increasing pressure on natural turf pitches.
The RFU’s investment will fund two types of pitches in locations across the country to ensure maximum access and growth in participation.
RFU Rugby Development Director, Steve Grainger, said:
Over the past four years, RFU data shows that wetter winters are having a serious impact on the rugby season, resulting in more games and training sessions being cancelled.
In February 2014, 1,766 adult games were lost over two weekends due to bad weather and over 600 natural turf pitches were unplayable for three weeks as a result.
Each new artificial grass pitch built will enable between 1,500 and 2,000 additional hours of rugby within the respective local communities each year, giving 58,000 new players the opportunity to play rugby each year while ensuring poor weather will no longer compromise play.
Preston is one of the areas benefitting from the RFU’s investment, with pitches also in construction at Hornets RFC and Aylesbury RFC. All three surfaces are due for completion by the end of the year.
Richard Ellis, general manager at Preston Grasshoppers, said:
We are delighted to be a part of the RFU’s programme and we will work with them to ensure as many schools, clubs and groups within the community get the opportunity to train and play matches on this RFU pitch.
60 pitches will be used by the host club, other local clubs, schools and community groups while 40 will be located on community sites with a guaranteed number of hours for use by rugby.