Wembley Stadium used new ‘lay and play’ pitch technology to turn around its hallowed playing surface and make it ready for the FA Community Shield just three weeks after a sell-out music concert.
Made up of 720 rolls of turf grown offsite and imported to the stadium, the hybrid pitch was made ready for the game between Arsenal and Manchester City on 6 August. Each roll was 10m long by 1.2m wide and the install took 60 hours to complete.
Wembley Stadium’s Grounds Manager Karl Standley said: “Previously, it might have taken up to five weeks after a concert to get a pitch ready for a football fixture. Now, thanks to the new technology, this can be done in just five days.
“Growing it offsite means we can ultimately cut down the time required between concerts and football to let the pitch recover, so that Wembley can continue to keep up with global demand to stage world-class events.”
Standley added that the pitch was grown to the very specific demands of the Wembley pitch.
“Our pitch is unique and has very certain requirements,” Standley revealed. “It involves a specific blend of sun, water, nutrients and takes 14 weeks to get into perfect shape. Even the fertiliser plan is bespoke to our requirements.
“It is like one big chemistry experiment. We had to test every stage of the process including the grow time, any potential damage during transport and how it reacts when it comes into the stadium. It is a very precise procedure, and we monitor every stage closely.
“The pitch for this week’s FA Community Shield fixture came into the stadium on July 25 and has settled in nicely. After that it will be used for the Rugby League Challenge Final before concerts and events including AEW Elite Wrestling at the stadium.
“The next step is to make the whole process sustainable with the old pitch going back into grassroots football.
“At present the old pitch goes off to a production site where the grass, sand and plastic is separated. The grass decomposes naturally, and the sand is sent back to us so it can be re-used or sent out for use on grassroot pitches.
“We are close to now finding a use for the plastic, whereby it can be melted down and used to produce equipment for sports teams. Eventually the whole process will be 100% sustainable.”