Oxford United pitch fears eased

Fears that London Welsh playing rugby would ruin the Kassam Stadium pitch have been eased with the appointment of a specialist company responsible for maintaining the playing surface

Fears that London Welsh playing rugby would ruin the Kassam Stadium pitch have been eased with the appointment of a specialist company responsible for maintaining the playing surface

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

Concerns over the impact the ground-share will have on the pitch at the Kassam Stadium have reduced after the appointment of an experienced maintenance firm.

Both Oxford United and London Welsh, who begin their debut Premiership season at home to Leicester Tigers on Sunday, have welcomed the move to bring in Sports Turf.

The company are used to taking care of pitches used for football and rugby, including Adams Park, home to Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps, and Vicarage Road, which is shared by Watford FC and Saracens.

Only last month, United chairman Ian Lenagan told the Oxford Mail he feared Firoka, the stadium’s owners, did not understand how much work would be required to maintain the quality of the playing surface.

But Sports Turf’s arrival have satisfied the football club.

Lenagan said: “They are very capable expert people on maintaining grounds, particularly with pitches for football and rugby shared.

“They have a job to do this year to maintain the pitch, but they will come into their own at the end of the season because the way you keep a pitch in good nick is the refurbishment you do at the end of the season.

“They know how to do that, so I’m very confident.”

London Welsh are also optimistic, although it will only become clear how much work is needed as the season continues.

It means the maintenance costs the Exiles pay could increase if the toll on the pitch is heavier than expected, but the club are prepared to invest.

“The budget that we chuck at it will be whatever is needed,” London Welsh’s managing director John Taylor said.

“We expect the cost will be less than double what it was before, so we will be saving Oxford United money."

No-one is expecting a perfect playing surface this season, with bad weather still liable to disrupt during the winter.

There are a few occasions during the campaign when both teams are at home on the same weekend, but United’s primacy of tenure means Lenagan is happy the arrangement will work fine.

He said: “I’m not saying we won’t have some problems, we will, but the problems are for the second club.

“If we’re playing on a Saturday, you’re not bothered about what the pitch is like on the Sunday and rugby fortunately is not so demanding of a flat and even surface as football is.

“By them playing on the Sunday we alleviate most of the problem.

“The difficulty could be if it’s used Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, but there are very few of those.”

It means the first test for the pitch will come as early as next week, with Oxford United hosting Swindon Town on Wednesday, just three days after London Welsh’s clash with Leicester.

  • Special preview on London Welsh’s season in tomorrow’s Oxford Mail .

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