Introduced at the start of the 2015/16 campaign, the state of the art ‘Desso GrassMaster’ pitch has stood up well to its first season at Selhurst Park – an investment made by Chairman Steve Parish as part of the improvements to the stadium and training ground facilities at the club.
After ripping out and re-seeding the real grass ahead of Palace’s fourth consecutive season in the Premier League, Head Groundsman Gareth Read says the ground staff are all on schedule, with the pitch set to be ready for the team’s first fixture at Selhurst Park on Saturday 6th August.
“It’s a much quicker process to what we’ve had in previous years. We started in the second week of June and the company that put in the pitch last year came in again and did the work of stripping out the natural grass and vegetation so we were just left with the desso fibres.
"A week later we could then reseed the pitch, top dress and fertilise it, and then all we had to do was cover it in germination sheets which helps quicken up the process of the seed chipping in and turning into grass. After we had the sheets on for a week, we put some more fertilisation on it and could then start cutting.”
The Eagles aren’t the only club to make the switch to a pitch that is a mix of real and artificial grass. As well as the ‘top four’ teams, sides like Southampton, Sunderland, West Brom and Watford have also replaced their stadium’s turf with Desso GrassMaster, and Palace’s Head Groundsman says the step up in quality hasn’t gone unnoticed by the playing staff and management.
“The most important thing is that the players are comfortable playing on it and the feedback from players and management this year has all been positive which is good. I think we have it the way we want it, but for us as groundsmen, we’re always trying to do better and push it forward."
"You look at clubs who are at the pinnacle of our industry and you want to try and get to the top. Arsenal have ploughed millions and millions into research about their pitch and it’s all about keeping up with practices and what other clubs are doing to make up the small margins. We’re open minded to new ideas and will try anything that makes the pitch better by 1%, so we’re always developing, you can never stand still.”
Tickets for Crystal Palace's final pre-season friendly game at home to Valencia will be on sale from Friday 1st July at 9am - more information on prices to follow.
Corporate hospitality for this game will also be available at a special discounted rate, click here to find out more.