Addressing Pitch Use in Wet and Waterlogged Conditions
It is crucial to consider pitch usage comprehensively when evaluating whether training or fixtures should proceed in wet weather. Ground personnel typically focus on preparation, potential repairs and pitch condition while club officers, coaches and match officials have other considerations such as fixture congestion, travel logistics, player availability and revenue loss. Match officials prioritise player safety and pitch playability in the immediate context.
Understanding the challenges...
If your site is prone to waterlogging it is beneficial to identify the specific factors causing it especially during the winter months. Examining the soil profile on the pitch or conducting off-pitch tests for thatch layers, soil compaction, debris, soil pans or groundwater issues can provide insights.
- High water table: Groundwater problems may lead to water accumulation, particularly in low-lying areas
- Thatch: Excessive organic matter build-up can create a water-retaining sponge remedied through scarification and aeration.
- Soil compaction: Compacted soils hinder water penetration and addressing this requires slitting, deep spiking and hand forking.
- Soil debris and pans: Impermeable layers or debris can impede water drainage and decompaction may be necessary to address shallow issues.
Making weather forecasts work...
Identifying your site's susceptibility to waterlogging allows you to estimate how much rainfall the pitches can handle. Utilising a rain gauge and referencing weather forecasts helps predict whether the pitch will be playable. Extreme rainfall events (common nowadays) may require increased vigilance and early communication about potential disruptions.
When is wet too wet?
Certain tasks like slitting and spiking can be performed before wet weather arrives if the pitch is sufficiently dry. However, a crucial rule is that the soil must be moist, not wet during these operations. If there is standing water before kick-off or the surface draws up water easily it may be unsuitable for play.
Know the rules and communicate...
Understanding league rules on fixture postponements is essential. Communicate potential issues early, keeping records of notifications to various stakeholders. Recognise that others may not prioritise pitch conditions similarly emphasising the importance of effective communication.
Game on? What to expect...
If a session proceeds on a wet pitch consider negotiating with coaching staff to limit intense warmups and drills or move the warmup off the pitch completely. Expect increased wear, divots, and scars on the playing surface. Standing water impacts playability, diminishes the experience and raises safety concerns.
Document any damage to the pitch by taking photos. Stay off saturated pitches and refrain from performing divot repair until the pitch has dried somewhat. Stay off with heavy machinery as this will cause more damage than good. Medium-term considerations include aeration, decompaction and if necessary renovation works to ensure pitches are fit for subsequent use. Use a fork to put back any divots and a rotary mower to clean up any remaining debris.