Working Diary at Arsenal – Weeks 5 & 6

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It has been a busy couple of weeks with work.

With an entire field renovation being conducted on one of the first team pitches and working a Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium in London. There has not been much down time.

I was fortunate enough that to be able to work the first game of the 2018/2019 Premier League Season at Emirates Stadium with Arsenal versus Manchester City. It was a brilliant game of football, however the home team was unfortunate to not come away with a win against the reigning champions. For game day preparation it is all about making the field of play ready for that 90 minutes of football. The field is usually given a final cut and lines are marked either the morning of or night before depending on weather. The grounds team at the Stadium that Paul and Reece lead will make sure this is all done along with setup of any equipment that may be required, i.e. goals, corner flags, warm up goals etc. Everything must be perfect as you do not want anything to go wrong on the day.

The atmosphere was amazing in the Stadium and the grounds crew have some of the best seats in the house – front and second row off the pitch and not far from the away team bench. It was very surreal being so close to the likes of Pep Guardiola and Sergio Aguero. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.

The renovation process for a Desso Grassmaster pitch is like none I have seen before. It was incredibly detailed and I believe it is a very thorough procedure. There are a lot of different opinions of how to renovate a Desso Grassmaster field. The philosophy at Arsenal is to extend the life of the Desso pitch for as long as we need.

The idea of this process is so that minimal sand is removed from the profile and little destruction to the levels of the surface, while being able to separate the organic matter. From the top layer and removing all of the turf all at the same time. Obviously the more you take away, the more you need to put back. Therefore an extra expense that is avoidable here. Our entire renovation process is also conducted all in house with all the grounds staff participating in some form.

There is a colleague of mine here who is very meticulous with his work. He is also from France and is occasionally asked to present at European and UK turf shows. In his most recent presentation for Hyrdaparts in France he outlined that there was potentially 18 different stages to a Desso Grassmaster renovation. Though in that 18 there is some repetition of certain process at different stages of the renovation.

The renovation starts with spraying the surface we want to renovate. To kill all unwanted grasses and make renovation process easier. There are 3 different types of rakes that we use to scratch the surface. Next is the KORO® FIELDTOPMAKER® (FTM®)from Campey Turf Care, and this collects the first layer of waste that we have just scratched off and at the same time cleans that top layer of the surface.

We then scratch the surface again, this time using an agitator, rakes and a scratcher. The agitator is quite a slow process as it is required to be operated at a low speed. After we scratch the surface we go back to collecting what we have just loosened however this time we add a brush of the surface and scratcher collect to assist. The brush would typically go before the KORO® FTM® with the scratcher collect to follow behind.

It is a painstaking process to remove all unwanted grass and organic matter.

We then do the soil work. This is where we top dress the pitch and Terraspike the pitch, before giving the field another light top dressing, Spike and Brush. We often use a Raycam Speedresser and Dakota Turf Tender for the top dressing. After the first top dress we agitate to mix the new sand with the existing sand profile.

Then the part that is probably the most nerve racking but most rewarding. The seeding! We use 3 different types of seeders including a Vredo Seeder and there is roughly 5 passes on the pitch. Then we wait. After a couple of days we could start seeing germination and a slight green tinge to the surface.

It is important to realise that a Desso Grassmaster pitch is expensive and the minimum lifespan is 10 years. Although with the renovation that we do at Arsenal it allows us to aim for a lifespan of 15-20 years.

To see a renovation as this intricate has been very rewarding and a learning curve.