Pitch infrastructure


Pitch infrastructure relates primarily to providing a durable, level and drainable base works to support the sport surface system. Full size pitches cover approximately 7-8000m² and often require groundworks up to 1m in depth that have a design life of 25 years or more. Although somewhat traditional, the UK practice is slowly evolving to embrace more continental forms of design and construction, and seeking more sustainable products, methods and management of drainage water for example.

Future research aligns with the increasing attention on quality assurance for both pitch build and in-service aftercare, for the benefit of users.

Group Activity

The SSRG members have a strong track record of working with industry by many different funding mechanisms. The group’s activity is split into three primary areas of interest, delivered through research and enterprise contracts, which have some overlap with play performance and user safety:

  1. Base Design and Testing
  2. Drainage design and performance
  3. Innovations in Materials and Instrumentation (including heat effects, see User safety for details)

Base design and testing research has been primarily through enterprise work, and Dr Fleming’s role on the Sport and Play Construction (SAPCA) technical committee since 2013 and the Institute of Groundsmanship’s 2013 Innovation Fund.  In addition to developing bespoke testing methods to validate new pitch base products, and new industry guidance on the design of baseworks is in the process of publication by SAPCA/Sport England.

The sports pitch construction industry is embracing new field monitoring technologies, many transferred from the highways industry, to improve quality assurance of the build, and support innovations in more sustainable products and processes.

Dr Paul Fleming and Dr Matthew Frost have collaborated with several industry partners for the investigation of drainage design and performance. The work has focussed around field monitoring and laboratory element testing to develop models of sport pitch drainage behaviour.  This work found that current pitch design permits through-drainage of rainfall but is treated in planning as impervious. LU industry-supported research has shown that only limited % of the total volume of rainfall water is discharged at the drainage outfall, and that the pitch can be used as a sustainable drainage solution, supporting the latest legislation. Ongoing work with Sport England and industry, seeks to implement this and other work into industry best practice.

Dr Fleming and Dr Forrester have a strong track record in laboratory based experimental research and modelling, and increasingly are translating this into enhanced fieldwork methodologies including instrumenting pitches during construction on the Loughborough campus.

Intensive monitoring of build quality and maintenance permits enhanced detailed analysis of field data from both mechanical testing and player testing.

Future work aims to enhance further the outdoor Loughborough sports pitches as fully instrumented test beds to further support research and enterprise projects in ‘real world’ applications.

Research Projects

  • ‘Sustainable Drainage for Artificial Sports Pitches’, LU/Inst. of Groundsmanship/Sport England, M Simpson, 2010-2016.

Enterprise Projects

  • A New Industry Guide for Drainage Design (2017/18 ongoing)
  • Geotechnical Guidance for a New UK Standard for Base Design and Testing (2013-15)
  • Validating A New Pitch Base System for Developing Countries (2014)
  • Design Advice for an Innovative recycled elastic base product (2012/13)

PhD Projects

  • ‘Sustainable Drainage of Sports Pitches’, Simpson, 2016

Selected recent publications

Click here to view recent publications in this area.