Kassam pitch surprises experts

Groundsmen make running repairs at half time in a U's game

Groundsmen make running repairs at half time in a U's game

First published in Sport Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Sports Reporter covering Oxford United. Follow us on twitter: @oxfordmailoufc. Call me on 01865 425458

THE man brought in to maintain the quality of the Kassam Stadium pitch admits the playing surface is dealing with the groundshare better than expected.

There were concerns this summer when it was confirmed Oxford United would be joined by London Welsh.

But despite a punishing schedule, the fears have so far been largely unfounded.

Surrey-based firm Sportsturf were recruited by stadium owners Firoka Group to oversee the ground maintenance.

They have experience of dealing with similar situations at Vicarage Road (Watford FC and Saracens) and Adams Park (Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps).

And despite having 18 games – almost an entire league season – in the space of three months, Sportsturf managing director Steven Moore is pleased.

“We are surprised at how good it is,” he said.

“We have never known so many games in such a short time, last week there were four games in eight days, so we are quite pleased with its progress.

“In the meeting at the end of June, if you had said the pitch was going to be like this in November I would have given my right arm for it.

“We have been lucky with the weather, although it’s been wet it has not been on a match day.

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“A lot depends on the weather, hopefully it stays mild.

“We have three rugby games to go until the end of the year and possibly four football games – that gets us through to the halfway stage.

“If we get to that point and we’re sitting pretty, then we can relax a little because there’s a big gap in the rugby fixtures in the new year."

The key to pitch maintenance, particularly with one which is shared, is the amount of refurbishment which takes place during the summer.

As the groundshare was not confirmed until late June the work could not take place, so this season is likely to be a case of getting by until the end of the season.

Moore acknowledges that there are certain areas which can be impro- ved.

He said: “We have a problem on the near side by the tunnel.

“Looking at the history of the pitch it has been an issue, because it’s the side that’s in shade.

“We haven’t had a good chance to look into it yet because we couldn’t change anything mid-season.”

Sportsturf have a presence at the ground full-time and have not been given any restrictions by Firoka.

Moore believes the work is beginning to pay off .

He said: “If you look from day one to now you can see where that’s starting to kick in.

“In the first two games there was probably more damage done than in the last five because the grass is starting to root.

“Our brief has to be we are maintaining a football pitch so we have to produce a surface to suit football.

“We know rugby goes on there, but we have to think of it as a football pitch, so whenever United turn up it’s got to be 100 per cent.

“It’s got to be like that because rugby can be played on anything. “

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