Cranfield pitches in to help the FA tackle turf

May 9, 2003

The Football Association is leaving no stone, or turf, unturned in its strategy to win back the World Cup - or any major international trophy for that matter.

It has turned to the science of surfaces to transform the physical conditions in which the national game is played. The FA has granted a one-year scholarship to John Lockyer to complete Cranfield University's MSc in sports surface technology, the only masters course of its type in Europe.

Mr Lockyer is working with Steve Williams, the FA's national facilities manager, on a range of projects. One of these is the durability and maintenance of new-generation artificial turf pitches.

These "third-generation" surfaces could provide the key to all-weather, all-year pitches and so finally lay to rest the enforced winter lay-offs that thousands of gifted players endure in the UK.

Mr Williams said: "There has been little structured discussion about the green areas, the pitches around the country affected by the changing weather conditions, which can move from the sublime to the ridiculous.

"We all know the examples of leagues being cancelled in the winter and then youngsters having to play a mass of games in only seven weeks of early spring. We are losing gifted players because of this.

"We need to pursue two lines of attack here. We will set a construction standard for grass pitches that contractors have to comply with. We will also research the third-generation surfaces now in the marketplace."

Mr Lockyer's work should help Mr Williams with his pilot study on playing surfaces for the Union of European Football Associations.

"John's work will help us to understand more about the characteristics of these new longer-pile surfaces, which will feed into our two-year research on the playing characteristics, maintenance training and equipment needs," Mr Williams said.

Mr Lockyer, who previously worked in the golf industry in the UK and the US as a golf course greenkeeper, will study all elements of sports turf science and management.

The MSc programme provides students with an understanding of the fundamental principles of plant and soil science and a high level of managerial skills.

"I was delighted to be given the opportunity to work with Steve and the FA on such an important project," he said.

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