As specialist sports contractors for 30 years, S&C Slatter have acquired wide-ranging expertise in artificial turf sports pitch construction.
We work with clients at a community, national, and global level and have constructed in excess of 500 synthetic turf pitches, for clients including Eton College, Everton FC and Major League Baseball (MLB).
Read on to learn more about benefits of artificial turf sports pitches or drill down to learn how we build synthetic grass pitches for specific sports using the quick-links below.
A leading contractor in the sport, education and leisure industries, we’re well placed to deliver small-scale projects for community or educational use, right up to full-scale pitches for elite performance.
Whether it be a full-sized 3G stadium football pitch to FIFA Quality Pro standard, a water-based hockey pitch to FIH Global Elite standard, an ECB approved non-turf cricket system or a World Rugby Regulation 22 Certified synthetic rugby pitch, we work with you based on your needs, limitations and requirements.
S&C Slatter and FieldTurf work in partnership as one of a few select suppliers to the Football Foundation Framework, run in partnership with The FA, Premier League and Department for Culture, Media and Sport. We are also proud to be the first contractor awarded FIH Certified Field Builder status, a certification we have maintained since 2016.
Our dedicated in-house divisions allow us to deliver at every stage of the sports construction process, from design and planning through to construction, civil engineering and maintenance. We are always keen to discuss new sports projects and are happy to offer a free initial consultation.
1. Design and planning
This is the crucial stage of developing and producing the design of the sports facility, which is then taken through the planning process. Once granted, technical drawings and specifications are created ready for construction.
2. Environmental considerations
Mitigating the impact of any facility on the environment is an important part of creating a sustainable facility. This can include management of water run-off and drainage, infill migration and considering overspill from floodlighting.
3. Health and safety
On all construction sites, safety should be paramount. This stage involves creating a safe and thoroughly planned construction site that employs best practice and meets all legislative requirements.
As with any construction project, foundations are crucial. Following the necessary surveys, reports and designs approved in the design and planning stage, groundworks are undertaken to prepare the land. This might include stripping topsoil, base excavations and the construction of retaining walls.
At this stage, appropriate drainage is implemented to ensure that the pitch will not become waterlogged during poor weather. The design of drainage will take into account the site location, any required irrigation systems and existing on-site drainage systems.
6. Sub-base and base
Following the drainage system, the base will be laid, which will vary depending on your pitch design and sporting body requirements. This includes carefully chosen layers of aggregate materials to support the chosen artificial turf system and free drainage of the pitch. For 3G pitches, we commonly construct macadam engineered bases with carefully selected stone sub-bases, overlaid with specialist performance layers. This includes a shockpad system where required.
Depending on your artificial turf system, a shockpad may be employed to meet safety requirements and enhance performance standards for your chosen sport.
8. Artificial turf system
The artificial turf, sometimes referred to as the ‘carpet’ is the part of the pitch that you actually see, laid over the shockpad and base. We partner exclusively in England and Wales with world-leading turf producer FieldTurf, who are a select member of the FIFA Preferred Producer Program, FIH Preferred Supplier and World Rugby Preferred Turf Producer, having met the high-quality standards required to deliver elite-level pitches worldwide.
Depending on the sport and system used, the turf may be sand-dressed, sand-filled, non-filled (water based) or 3G, which uses a combined sand and performance infill.
9. Ancillary equipment
Depending on your requirements, ancillary equipment can include goals, floodlighting and perimeter fencing that complies sports governing body standards for your pitch. This also includes the construction of seating areas, team shelters and pavilions.
Artificial turf pitches are – as the name suggests – pitches produced with grass made from technologically advanced synthetic fibres, instead of natural grass and soil.
The specific names of artificial pitches can vary by sport and construction technology, but across the board are commonly referred to as astro turf, synthetic turf or plastic turf. You may also hear artificial turf referred to as ‘carpet’, due to the manufacturing method of synthetic grass, which is similar to that used in making carpets.
Artificial pitches use infill materials to replicate the bounce and performance of natural grass pitches while protecting the artificial fibres. Infill is usually sand, SBR (rubber), or a mixture of the two. The exception to this is in hockey, where non-fill water-based pitches are used at the top level of the sport.
The type of infill, as well as the density and length of the artificial grass fibres, or ‘pile’, varies by sport and turf system.
All of these terms refer to pitches made with artificial grass, however some relate specifically to the infill and technology used on pitches designed for specific sports.
These terms reference the generation ‘G’ of artificial turf technology and are generally applicable to artificial pitches constructed for the play of football, hockey, rugby, lacrosse and multi-use games areas.
2nd Generation pitches use a short pile height combined with a sand infill, making them perfect for hockey pitches and multi-use games areas. 2G Pitches are able to achieve FIH Certification, however the level will vary based on the infill and turf system used.
3G or 3rd generation pitches utilise a combined sand and performance infill, and have a longer pile height, usually between 40-60mm. Third generation technology is approved for use by FIFA, World Rugby, The FA, RFU and RFL and is perfect for football pitches and rugby pitches.
3G Pitches are the only generation of artificial turf football pitch that can achieve FIFA Quality, FIFA Quality Pro and/or World Rugby Regulation 22 certification. 3G pitches can be used for training at all levels of football, for match play at men’s National League step 5 and below, all levels of Scottish, Welsh and Women’s football. In rugby, 3G pitches can be used for matchplay and training in all levels of the RFU and RFL.
3G pitches can be used for low level hockey and multi-sport applications.
There are new technologies emerging, which rely on the use of artificial turf without the need for rubber crumb infill – these are commonly referred to as ‘4G’ or ‘5G’ pitches. However, whilst this ‘4G’ technology exists, it is still in the early stages of development. The lack of infill means that these pitches are yet to pass the safety and performance tests laid out by FIFA and World Rugby, so cannot achieve FIFA Quality, FIFA Quality Pro or World Rugby Regulation 22 certification.
So, the key difference between 2G, 3G and 4G artificial turf is the type of sport that can be played on each surface, and which technology type is actually approved for use within major sports. Currently 4G technology is not approved for use by any sports governing body.
The names here refer to the combination of turf and infill (or lack thereof) utilised in the artificial turf system, and each type is suitable for different standard of hockey play.
Water-based hockey pitches are also referred to as ‘non-fill’ turf pitches, as they contain no infill. Instead the synthetic fibres are short and very densely packed, then watered heavily prior to use. The water reduces friction and allows for a smoother, faster game, while providing protection to the players on the field. These pitches are mandatory at the very highest international level of the sport, are Category 1 England Hockey Pitches and can achieve an FIH Global Elite or Global certification.
Sand-dressed pitches are a step below water-based pitches, however can still be used for lower level national, regional and club hockey. Capable of a achieving an FIH National performance standard, sand-dressed pitches are Category 2 England Hockey Pitches and use sand to partially support the synthetic fibres, which are still short, but less densely packed.
Sand-filled pitches are Category 3 England Hockey pitches most suited to community and introductory hockey. The turf system has longer synthetic fibres, so sand is used as an infill to support 100% of the pile depth. If designed specifically for hockey use, they can achieve FIH National certification, or an FIH multi-sport certification if used in the construction of a multi-use games area on which hockey will be played.
To ensure safe and consistent ‘all-weather’ play, artificial turf is ideal for use in the sports, education and leisure sectors.
Key benefits of artificial turf sports pitches over natural turf sports pitches:
On average, natural turf pitches can be used between 2-6 hours of adult use per week, depending on the appropriate maintenance, management and drainage of the pitch.
Whilst this might be enough for a dedicated ‘match’ pitch, this would not be suitable for a pitch used for training, hire or match play for multiple clubs.
Artificial grass sports pitches can handle between 60-80 hours of adult use per week, over 10x the maximum amount a natural turf pitch can be used. With schools, professional clubs and leisure centres using pitches on a daily basis for training, match play and pitch hire – it’s clear which option is best suited – and which will generate the most revenue and value for money in the long term.
The weather also comes into play here – if a natural turf pitch is badly impacted by the weather, those playing hours can slip down to 0 hours a week if it’s not safe to play.
Artificial turf pitches can be constructed indoors or outdoors - they don’t require that elusive sunshine for maintenance or playability.
British weather can be unforgiving. During a spell of heavy rainfall, snow or freezing weather, natural turf pitches can become too dangerous and unfit for play, leading to fixture cancellations.
Commonly called ‘all-weather’ pitches, artificial turf pitches are designed to be free draining to prevent waterlogging and freezing. This, combined with infill utilised to ensure safe grip levels, means that pitches are safe to use year-round.
Laser-guided base and shock pad installation contributes to this also, providing a consistent, level, playing surface across the field.
This consistent playing surface isn’t just about safety – it provides a more reliable and long-lasting performance standard than that offered by poorly maintained natural grass pitches. Where lumps, bumps and holes can occur in natural grass pitches, artificial grass football pitches are more durable over hundreds of hours of use.
A synthetic turf pitch generally has a lifespan of around 10 years, depending on the quality of construction, weekly hours of usage and consistent, disciplined levels of maintenance.
Whilst artificial pitches don’t require aeration, watering or cutting like natural grass pitches, regular maintenance unique to artificial turf is still required to maximise the lifespan, safety and performance of the pitch.
Maintenance programs should be implemented based on factors like hours of use, and can include regular brushing, decompaction, managing infill levels and moss/weed removal.
Failing to properly maintain an artificial pitch can cause issues with drainage and grip, and potentially void any manufacturer warranty you may have.
Artificial turf pitches are approved and certified for use by a number of sports governing bodies.
Only third generation (3G) types of artificial grass pitches are currently accepted by The FA and FIFA. Pitches must be tested to achieve FIFA Quality or FIFA Quality Pro certification and to be registered as an approved 3G Pitch on the FA Register. 3G pitches can be used for match play in National League Step 5 and below in English Men's football*, at all levels of women’s football, all levels of the Scottish Professional Football league and all levels of the Welsh Football league.
*3G pitches are commonly used for training in all levels of English men's football, including the Premier League.
As with football, only third generation 3G synthetic pitches are currently accepted by World Rugby, the RFU and RFL and must be tested to achieve World Rugby Regulation 22 certification. 3G pitches are approved for use in all levels of the RFU and RFL.
Since 1976, synthetic turf pitches have been mandatory for all major hockey competitions and play. Water-based hockey pitches may be used at all levels of play and are mandatory for Olympic and World cup play. Water-based pitches are the only pitches that can achieve FIH Global Elite or FIH Global certification, and are Category 1 level pitches for England Hockey.
Sand-dressed and sand-filled pitches, provided they are constructed specifically for hockey use, are accepted for lower level national, regional and club level play, and can achieve a maximum FIH National Certification performance level.
Selected non-turf cricket pitches are approved for use by the ECB, such as those manufactured by our partner Notts Sport providing they comply with the ECB’s Code of Practice and Technical Requirements for the Design and Installation of Non-Turf Cricket Facilities.