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This page explains the requirements and gives practical advice on building and maintaining playing fields and sports pitches as well as the design selection process of material for a range of outdoor sports surfaces. 

Artificial sports surfaces

Our Artificial Surfaces for Outdoor Sport guide looks at the use of artificial grass pitches, needle punch play surfaces, and polymeric surfaces. It gives essential information used by national governing bodies (NGBs), developers and planners to meet quality standards for construction and maintenance of natural turf and typical pitch layouts.

We advise on a range of facilities, whether they’re located in new or existing schools, local parks, sports clubs or as part of larger regeneration projects. The guidance covers: 

  • The benefits of various surface materials 
  • Design concepts 
  • Common technical expressions 
  • Technical classifications of various playing surfaces 
  • Suitability of surfaces for various levels of sports at training or performance levels 
  • Other sources of information and more detailed advice.

Our guide on Artificial Surfaces for Outdoor Sport replaces our original design guide, Multi-Use Games Areas Volume 1. 

You can access a simple, consistent methodology and approach to selecting the right type of artificial grass surface for playing hockey, football, rugby union and rugby league with our guidance on selecting the right surface below. 

Our guidance on Comparative Sizes of Sports Pitches and Courts, with separate documents for indoor and outdoor sport, provides a comparison of space requirements for a range of sports and reflect the most up-to-date NGB facility requirements.

These documents have been fully endorsed by the NGBs at the time of publication.

Volunteering football coach running drills

Artificial grass pitch layouts

Artificial grass pitches (AGPs) are a key part of the modern sporting landscape and provide valuable facilities for local communities. This guidance expands on the general technical advice already made available on our website and gives details of:

  • Acoustic implications associated with such facilities 
  • Acoustic research programme involving detailed analysis of relevant noise guidance documents and site testing in a range of locations
  • Appropriate noise criteria and assessment methods
  • Practical measures that can be applied to reduce noise in particularly sensitive areas.

You can look through a range of layouts and plans of artificial grass pitches for football, hockey and rugby along with briefing notes to cover the recycling of artificial grass carpets and artificial flat green bowls. 

Case studies

This Coram Field project is an example of the modernisation of an artificial pitch to 3G long pile carpet. The works were carried out and managed by our framework contractor and consultants.

The work on the Blackbridge Athletic Track in Gloucester involved the refurbishment of an existing athletics track, including repositioning of the long/triple jump runway, widening of the main straight to eight lanes, replacement of the porous artificial surfacing to the track and more.

A mask on a hockey pitch

Natural turf sports surfaces

Our Natural Turf for Sport Design Guide will help you develop safe and sustainable pitches that are fit for their sporting purpose. It also gives practical advice on building and maintaining playing fields and sports pitches, including:

  • Design guidance
  • Standard pitch layouts
  • Construction specifications
  • Costs.

The National Turf for Sport Design guide was developed in consultation with NGBs, sports turf specialists and contractor associations.

We also provide layouts or plans of natural turf pitches to support diagrams in the Natural Turf for Sport Design Guide (see below) with each document relating to a different sport. You can also find the Mowsbury Park Natural Turf Pitches case study below to see how soil scanning technology was used to find a solution to waterlogged pitches.

Quality assessment and life cycle costs

Using the Equivalent Quality Assessment of Playing Fields briefing note gives you access to technical advice on how the quality of pitches should be assessed to meet Exception E4 of our Playing Fields Policy when proposals for replacement playing fields are reviewed.

The briefing note describes the thorough assessment process to help you determine whether proposals will in practice provide the 'equivalent quality' replacement playing fields that are required to meet this exception.

We also offer information to provide direction on typical life cycle costs for a sinking fund and preventative maintenance you can implement on natural turf pitches, designed to assist lottery applicants, design teams and facility operators on the works and costs associated with long term maintenance and the replacement of major components over the life of a pitch.

Site feasibility reports and FAQs

Within this section, we provide generic feasibility reports that identify key issues that might arise when bringing recreational space into formal sporting use, as well as issues that may come up on a regularly waterlogged pitch.

We cover the most frequently asked questions relating to planning, design, construction, and maintenance of natural turf pitches. 

For enquiries regarding specific sports, we also recommend contacting the appropriate national governing body of the sport.

Groundsmanship for Sports Clubs

We’ve worked closely with the Football Association, England and Wales Cricket Board and Institute of Groundsmanship to develop guidance on the successful management of dual use cricket and football sites that identifies the key issues you might run into when creating sustainable pitches. The guidance also shows, through a series of useful tips and case studies, how football and cricket can continue to work together effectively.

Our Groundsmanship for Sports Clubs website also provides valuable support for volunteers, coaches, club officials and the 'hands-on' groundskeeper. With easy to follow advice, images and videos aimed at all club members, the site encourages a collaborative team approach to looking after sports grounds and creating great pitches.

Groundsmanship for Sports Clubs

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