When Sport England challenged the UK industry at last year’s SAPCA event at Twickenham to reduce the cost of synthetic turf pitches it did not go down well with much of the audience. In fact what could have been a serious debate fizzled out quite quickly, but the question was already out, are customers paying too much for their synthetic turf pitch?
With the FA and RFU looking at Framework agreements to help reduce costs, Sport England is now following with a Framework of their own. The idea being that Frameworks will reduce overall spend, based on continuity of design, bulk purchasing and guaranteed work. However, it has not addressed two fundamental points:
1. Do we install the right base system?
2. Are surface providers charging too much for their products?
So often the base chosen in the UK happens to suit the contractor and play to its strengths, rather than challenge the same contractor to provide better quality bases at a more affordable rate. A simple way to lower base costs is with correctly built stone pitches for 3G surfaces. But this has been seen as a way to cheapen the construction through poor specifications, rather than balance high quality workmanship with lower material costs to deliver a high performance base. Why should public money be wasted on unnecessary asphalt bases just because contractors are incapable of building unbound bases to the right standards?
Likewise why do so many consultants take the easy option when putting out tenders and opt for asphalt bases? It certainly isn’t because asphalt is better for football or rugby than stone, so it must be a lack of confidence in contractors to get the job right.
The high costs of surfaces cannot be put down to contractors but more to the suppliers of the yarn that goes into the surfaces. Check out the profit figures of these companies and you will see where the profit is going. In fact now that new yarn producers are challenging the established order expect to see better quality surfaces at lower prices very soon.
It remains a fact that many UK contractors do not make the profits they would like, but it doesn’t follow that there are not ways to provide better quality synthetic turf pitches at lower costs. It just needs a little more focus on the right base build and challenging turf producers to sell at the right price.
Will Sport England achieve the reduction in pitch prices they are looking for? Perhaps, but only after standards of pitch build match affordable specifications, and surface prices are realistic.
For more information, get in touch with one of the Rhino-Turf Team.