Perfect storm leaves top-flight pitches in poor state

Premier League clubs taking urgent measures to save their pitches after ‘perfect storm’ of brutal weather, shortened summer window to renovate and reduced staff leaves turf in poor state… and warm-ups can now only take place in one designated zone!

  • Top-flight football clubs have been concerned over the quality of their pitches
  • A lack of time to renovate surfaces due to the shorter gap has hampered the turf
  • Brutal weather conditions have created what’s described as ‘a perfect storm’
  • Leeds United are among the clubs to have faced serious criticism for their pitch 

Top-flight football clubs are having to undertake a series of urgent measures to address concerns over the quality of their pitches.

Sportsmail has been told that a lack of time to renovate surfaces in the summer thanks to the shortened gap between the seasons, along with brutal weather conditions, fixture pile-ups and reduced staff levels have created what one official described as ‘a perfect storm’.

It is understood that Leeds United, one of those whose pitch has come in for criticism, have been seeking re-turfing options to improve the situation. 

They are making use of a small window of opportunity and are expected to have carried out significant improvements before Everton visit Elland Road on February 3.

Premier League clubs are battling to save their pitches after the shortened summer break and lack of staff is taking its toll. Pictured: Leeds United’s Elland Road is beginning to struggle

Leeds have come in for criticism for the state of their pitch and now have to take urgent action

Officials have disclosed that discussions are now regularly held before matches about where warm-ups should be taking place, with certain areas deemed out of bounds in order to keep them protected. 

A maximum of eight ground staff are allowed within the ‘red zone’ thanks to Covid rules, which is also having an impact, as some clubs employ as many as 14 workers on their teams.

‘Traditionally, pitches are replaced around every 10 years but every summer they are renovated, with the surface skimmed and reseeding carried out,’ one insider explained. ‘That process takes 8-10 weeks and for many there just hasn’t been the time to do it so we’re seeing the results now.

Officials are now told before matches which areas of pitches are ‘out of bounds’ for warm-ups

‘Some clubs took a chance when football first stopped and did it then, but others didn’t. You add that to the amount of football that’s being crammed in in a shortened season, and the wet winter we’ve had, and it’s the perfect storm.’

Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear has vowed that the Elland Road surface will undergo a full reconstruction in the summer, having seen the work cancelled last summer thanks to the Covid-triggered, shortened break and described the drainage system as ‘ancient’.

He added that the current pitch was 25 years old and had suffered from ‘decades of under-investment’. The Yorkshire club are thought to have identified a short-term solution for the remainder of the campaign.

Stadium pitches up and down the country have struggled due to a number of elements including difficult weather and a reduced staffing numbers

The problem is more severe outside the top flight. In the Championship, Blackburn’s fixture with Swansea on Tuesday night was postponed with the Ewood Park surface deemed unplayable. 

The club blamed a four-week turnaround between seasons, abysmal weather conditions and the fact that the pitch had been used for a number of training sessions.

Many others, including Peterborough, Sunderland and Tranmere, have suffered similar issues. While longer hours of daylight are on the way, the next four to six weeks is viewed as a critical period in what is already a congested season.

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