The rise of reinforced natural turf

At top-level sport you need a pitch that makes a difference, and Reinforced Natural Turf (RNT) is at the forefront of surface modification as well as synthetic turf technology, particularly within the sporting elite.

Sometimes known or referred to as a ‘Hybrid Surface’, RNT was developed to help pitches cope with intensive use, by combatting unplayable matches or cancelled events normally hindered by over use, poor pitch design, maintenance or bad weather. As Keith Kent, Twickenham Stadium’s head grounds man puts it, “Rain isn’t a problem.”

Due to architectural stadium structures hindering natural grass growth through limited light and poor air circulation, RNT, alongside lighting, air movement and water management systems, helps achieve the perfect hybrid surface for football, rugby, Australian Rules, GAA and American Football – both at elite and amateur levels.

An RNT surface is predominantly a natural grass pitch, reinforced with millions of synthetic turf fibres. The specialist technique of injecting 20 million artificial fibres into a specially designed natural grass field allows the roots to intertwine with synthetic yarn ensuring a high-tech, stable pitch that can undertake several times as many playing hours as a traditional natural turf surface – a key factor for club investment and a major selling point across sport.

Already installed in over 450 stadiums around the globe and having been successfully proven at various Premier League clubs and NFL franchises, multifunctional stadiums and renowned events – including Wembley Stadium, Arsenal FC, Denver Broncos and the 2014 FIFA World Cup – users can be confident that an RNT will provide extended hours of use, better drainage and far less maintenance per hour of use.

RNT provides clubs with the visual appeal of a natural grass surface and the assured longevity and added value of synthetic fibres – making it the perfect hybrid option for those who are hesitant to consider a 100% synthetic turf pitch.

Jason Booth, IOG National Manager of the grounds and natural turf improvement programme clarifies:

“Many 3G pitches are seen as a necessity rather than a preference, due to location conditions amongst other factors. Modern day players prefer grass surfaces; however Reinforced Natural Turf presents a compromise by offering the best of both worlds.”

While synthetic turf is trusted and valued by numerous sporting professions, misplaced opinions regarding player injury still exist within top level sport – yet the biggest fear is also the biggest misconception, as RNT provides an alternative for elite clubs which is more than suitable to replace natural grass.

Keith Kent agrees:

“Most professional teams play on reinforced natural turf surfaces, and injuries players used to obtain have decreased to a certain extent. A more even grass coverage ensures a softer more comfortable surface for players.”

RNT is favoured by some of the world’s top players due to its unique playing quality and multidimensional benefits including; optimum ball roll, faster pitch recovery and better grip. Thus, ensuring that the final surface is constructed to further enhance player performance and ability.

A stabilised surface is desired within all levels of sporting professionalism – and as a RNT surface won’t ‘cut up’, it provides clubs, grounds men and players with increased pitch control and uniform surface quality.

Mike Harbridge, surface consultant, supports this statement:

“Reinforced Natural Turf is definitely the way forward; however clubs need to choose an RNT system which suits their surface requirements, as each has its own merits performance characteristics and sustainability”.

Thanks to the strongly anchored grass roots, formed through the vigorous five stage installation process, more teams are able to use the same surface for both training and matches – as a sturdier pitch allows clubs to facilitate more intensive use.

Although the installation is a meticulous process, the surface’s maintenance is more relaxed, with less time and energy needed, providing additional cost savings for clubs.

In spite of the cost associated with installing a RNT hybrid surface, the pitch is seen as a beneficial investment, which if utilised to its maximum potential, has the ability to provide a quick and high return.

“We installed a Reinforced Natural Turf surface in 2012 in preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and it’s been the best investment [for us],” Keith Kent further explains. “I’m absolutely delighted in its performance. We have effectively invested in our surface’s reputation and increased use by paying for an investment policy.”

Reinforced Natural Turf is now not only seen as a viable option for clubs that choose to use and maintain natural grass, but a highly sought after system which enhances the speed of the game, player performance, playability of a stadium and financial returns.

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