Products Europe
October 06, 2021 | 10 min read

ICL’s Surprising Connection to World Football


Many are unaware that ICL is a major advisor, supply partner, and influencer when it comes to cultivating turfgrass in major football pitches across the world. With international technical expertise, ICL’s sports turf fertilizers and grass seeds help create resilient playing surfaces. These high-quality fields host world-class football stars for matches around the world.

Turfgrass in Pitches Around the World

Each year in warm-climate countries, real turfgrass goes through a renovation process of the football field grass. In order to host games throughout the year, pitch managers must replant twice a year both during the winter and summer seasons. Summer grass varieties are unable to grow in the winter due to colder conditions, and vice versa.

For three weeks every November, players and football fans in these countries meet with some frustration. While only beginning to enjoy cooler autumn temperatures, the league must be put on hold to carry out this important football field natural grass repair. For those who do not live in these warmer parts of the world, a simple explanation will help make more sense of this process:

Warmer climates require stadiums to use a combination of two types of turfgrass. The three-week football field renovation period is chosen for good reason. It is a realistic time period for the new grass seeds to germinate and to achieve good rooting. Until this happens, training and play on the pitch must be suspended to ensure the natural football field grass repairs are successful.

In Europe, for example, the situation is completely different. The weather allows for playing football all year round with turfgrass varieties and advanced football field fertilizers able to keep the pitches green and in healthy playing conditions even at the height of summer.

Within these differing growing climates and regimes, ICL is a leader in the advice and supply of professional specialty fertilizers and turf solutions, delivering quality playing surfaces no matter the conditions.

ICL’s teams in Europe are advising and offering product solutions to many of the largest football clubs.

Different Approaches for Different Climates

“There are many types of turfgrass, and what suits one stadium may not suit another.”

ICL’s Turf and Landscape teams across the globe provide advice and support for the growth and cultivation of the world’s major football stadium pitches. In some cases, stadium pitches leverage the use of “hybrid pitches”, which utilize a combination of natural grass seeds along with synthetic turf fibers.

“There are many types of turfgrass, and what suits one stadium may not suit another,” explains Joan Verhoeven, business lead of Turf and Ornamental for ICL. “Before choosing a type of turfgrass it is important to find out many details, such as how long the football season lasts, what the pitch geographical location is, what the climate is like, who will play on the pitch — professionals or amateurs — and what the playing use and intensity will be on the pitch. Only then can you make the correct choice of turfgrass and football pitch fertilizers that will ensure strength and durability all through the playing season.”

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Football Pitches and Players’ Safety

Not long ago, players would struggle to find their footing on muddy pitches, and sand was applied in an attempt to prevent waterlogging. Injuries to players are not only detrimental to their health and career but have a profound impact on the success of the team or club.

The type of field surface and quality of the pitch has been linked to injuries, including abrasive injuries, soreness, and pain. Verhoeven points out that while the pitches have changed over the years, there has also been an advancement in grass seed varieties and nutrition technologies.

“Today we know how to find solutions that did not exist in the past,” he says. “For example, if the pitch is located in a country with high rainfall, we at ICL have the products and advisory tools to improve water drainage from the pitch surface, improve turfgrass rooting and health, so that the games will never be interrupted.”

The Natural Grass Football Field Advantage

There are a number of reasons football clubs may look to artificial turf for their pitches. Whether it’s maintenance costs or aesthetics, there are temptations to abandon natural grass altogether. The risk of injury increases markedly on artificial turf. In fact, studies have shown that stress to the ACL and other joints rises by nearly 50% on artificial fields. Injuries to the lower extremities and torso are more prevalent amongst those playing on artificial surfaces than natural grass.

When asked, players will inevitably insist that they prefer natural grass football fields. Professional player Sydney Leroux once said in an interview, “The game is completely different, the game is fake. You don’t know how the ball is going to bounce or run. You’re running pretty much on cement.” and he’s not alone. Many players point out that artificial turf causes gameplay dynamics to shift.

While ongoing maintenance costs of artificial turf may be less than that of natural fields, there is a long-term financial impact. Natural turf repairs itself and sustains wear and weather damage naturally. This means natural grass fields last two to three times longer. When they need to be replaced, the end-of-life disposal costs of natural turf are a fraction of those related to removing and disposing of artificial turf.

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ICL’s Role in Global Football

ICL is a leading manufacturer of football field fertilizers. Throughout Europe, ICL’s advise and offer solutions to many of the biggest football clubs. ICL is not simply a provider of industry-leading turfgrass seeds and nutrition products. We are also committed to the ongoing research and development of football pitch fertilizers and turf technologies, ensuring we continue to give outstanding results in football fields worldwide.

We don’t limit ourselves to providing these quality products, but are a partner to turf managers and football clubs around the globe, sharing our expertise and support year-round. Our advisory support ensures turf is seeded and maintained at optimum quality, creating a resilient and visually attractive pitch throughout the football season.

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