Synthetic Sports Maintenance Overview

About Us
Replay Maintenance Ltd recognises the importance of specialist maintenance and has therefore over many years developed specialist, purpose built machinery and processes to carry out various maintenance operations required to aid safe and enjoyable play, aesthetic value and longevity.

What is now Replay Maintenance Ltd began over twenty years ago within a business that pioneered synthetic sports surfaces in the UK. From these roots Replay has itself developed many techniques and services for the maintenance of facilities, constantly looking at new and innovative procedures to compliment the sports surfacing industry. Replay is now solely a specialist maintenance provider, ensuring a dedication to service constantly meeting the needs of our Clients.

Our processes and techniques have become the staple for manufacturers, installers, Governing Bodies, Grounds Professionals and end users, all of which recognise the pro-active qualities that specialist maintenance represents. Replay Maintenance has responded to the need for a high level of Customer Service and Quality, through attention to detail, and the necessity for a dedicated team of specialists committed to providing expert levels of service throughout our operation.

Replay’s investment and knowledge has succeeded in providing the very best techniques and processes for synthetic sports maintenance available today. Some of our patented developments are not only deemed as the primary techniques within the UK but are also sold and licensed throughout the world providing us with Global feedback to implement and support our National business. Replay not only invests in the best machinery and techniques but also the peoplewho operate them. Our Maintenance Operatives have been trained to the latest Industry standard, through Birmingham College, to the NVQ level 2 benchmark which in turn ensures that the surface being maintained by our operative far surpasses all requirements. CRB checks are also a Replay standard negating any risk or concern our clients may have.

As technology has evolved within our Industry Replay has recognised the need for empirical data to be linked to maintenance procedures. We now implement the unique Fieldman concept, a device that tests Industry criteria instantly, premaintenance and post, on your synthetic sports surface. For the first time this ongoing annual measurement will allow you to plan maintenance and implement the best procedures for your individual needs.

From the “smallest repair to full maintenance restoration Replay is well placed to advise, survey, plan and respond.
Replay Maintenance Ltd is proud to be a founding member of the customer driven website for the benefit of synthetic sports facilities across the UK.

What maintenance is appropriate for my surface?
Early terminology such as “maintenance free” or “all weather” lead too many synthetic sports surfaces being neglected, falling into premature disrepair or becoming unsafe and unplayable.

It is now widely recognised that this early terminology was incorrect, unsubstantiated and counter-productive to the ongoing life span of the investment and owners or operators having unjustified expectations of the surface. Whether you are responsible for the maintenance and care of a new installation or an existing facility it is imperative that a regime is implemented to aid longevity, safety, aesthetics and play.

So what maintenance is appropriate to your surface?
It is generally accepted that filled surfaces require a regime that encompasses brushing, de-compaction, cleaning, chemical treatments, ongoing repairs, infill reintroduction and full Intervention processes (further detailed information can be found throughout this website) Appropriate maintenance requires many factors to be considered before implementing any “physical” regime – usage of surface (amount of users), hours of play (consider unregulated usage), size of area and external conditions (trees, grass surround, busy roads etc).

Non-filled surfaces such as water-based products will also require the same considerations, as will polymeric (athletic tracks etc) and hard surface facilities (bitmacadam tennis courts etc).

The message is clear; all synthetic sport surfaces will require regular and specialist maintenance throughout its life span to ensure safe, enjoyable and pro-active cost management, which are now a common remit amongst Grounds Professionals.

Understanding why and what maintenance I need.
The reasons as to why are many and varied. Atmospheric pollution, player impact, natural surround, surface degradation, infill breakdown, vandalism and environmental impact such as flooding are all relevant to today’s facilities. Many of the aforementioned are impossible to avoid and so should be considered when planning and budgeting for maintenance. Are you surrounded by trees, do you have a suitable route for foot traffic onto the surface, have you considered decontamination areas and placed litter bins appropriately? Is your site secured sufficiently to minimise damage from vandals?

All of this said leaves will fall and rain will drop carrying dirt and dust onto and into your surface. These elements are unavoidable and constant and will necessitate a pro-active planned approach to the care and maintenance of your facility.

Although there is an increasing trend for 3rd Generation (rubber crumb) surfaces the vast majority are still sand-based as they are largely considered the surface for multiuse. The sands utilised throughout the industry are a silica-graded medium, which principally supports the fibre, anchors the synthetic carpet, creates a stable surface for play and assists drainage. Fluid is drawn through the sand, which naturally encourages contaminants held in suspension to remain in the upper portion of the medium. It is this contamination that can cause compaction, poor drainage, increased ball speed, unpredictable playing characteristics, slips and a reduction in player interaction. 3rd Generation surfaces do not escape unscathed as compaction of the infill can cause similar symptoms.

Your maintenance schedule should include a number of processes to alleviate the above, the most common of which is the use of a drag brush. A drag brush is designed to stimulate the fibre, re-distribute the infill and create an aesthetically pleasing surface. Often termed as an “in-house” operation due to it being a high frequency process this should be classed as your “staple”. Whilst this is an essential technique, due to its simplicity it is also minimal in effect. A drag rake or comb will often take the place of the brush on 3G surfaces. This tool will also aid decompaction of this more mobile fill.

Keeping finer dusts, dirt and debris at bay are integral to the surfaces life span, safety and enjoyable usage. This requires a more specialist process, which should incorporate equipment that can physically lift (ordinarily utilising a rotary brush) and separate the clean infill from foreign material (by sieve) extract and remove finer particulate (driven by vacuum) whilst constantly activating the fill. Maintenance principles will change due to weather. Wet weather amalgamates finer particulate with the clean medium therefore this particulate cannot be classed as dust. Your maintenance provision (or provider) should allow for inclement conditions without the need for deeper brushing techniques, which could prove detrimental to the
surface. Rigid mounted brushes with vacuum capability for removal of top surface contamination can be utilised with care. This cyclical maintenance regime should not be confused with Intervention type processes which are explained in more depth elsewhere.

Moss, algae and other self-seeding organisms can flourish within your synthetic surface if left untreated. It is therefore crucial that an active maintenance program includes provision to treat your surface.

Prevention as in most cases is better than cure. Regularly applying an approved chemical that is fit for purpose on synthetic surfaces can inhibit growth from taking hold. If moss is prevalent on and within the surface it should be killed before any removal process is implemented.

Application must be stringently regulated and can only be carried out by a certificated individual, please seek expert advice if unsure.

Repairs of your synthetic surface will be inevitable. Vandalism, seam separation, organic and mechanical wear or indeed incorrect maintenance regimes can all cause the need for “one-off” or ongoing reparation principles. Swift response to any failure is the key to minimising further damage and associated costs, as is calling on the services of an expert fully au fait with the repair of synthetic surfaces. Specific materials have been designed for this purpose and should at all times be utilised. It is always prudent to allow curing time where repairs have occurred which may result in down time for the facility.

Maintenance principles should extend to incorporate “Intervention processes”. These processes should only be carried out by a competent company using the correct process for your surface. This process is ordinarily actioned when a surface begins to pond due to contamination and compaction not being alleviated through regular maintenance, although with pro-active budgeting can take place to ensure maximum longevity. Always research the company and the process prior to placing an order. Trade Organisations, Governing Bodies, pitch suppliers, academic reports and peers can point you in the right direction. Intervention should restore your synthetic surface close to original specification. Please seek advice from the experts if you have any questions.

Non-filled surfaces (we include Athletics tracks within this) will also require a proactive maintenance regime. The modus operandi will change slightly. Brushing will have a positive effect but due to the dense nature of the fibre on a non-filled area a brush will not normally suffice nor will it combat the accumulation of build up on a track. This generally means that you will require a more specialist process to alleviate build up. Water based systems primarily with vacuum capability, which operate within your manufacturers guidelines (correct pressures as too high may damage your surface for instance), should be considered.

Investing in the correct maintenance for your site will ensure cost effective asset management of the facility throughout its entire lifespan.

Ensuring I am ready to maintain the surface.
More than likely it will be your responsibility as the Grounds Professional to care for and maintain the proposed facility. It is therefore important that you are involved from the initial planning stage of the installation as your historical knowledge of the site will be invaluable.

Will you need storage for maintenance machinery or have you planned to completely outsource this operation? Is access sufficient or acceptable for machinery to enter the site? Does the budget allow for ongoing essential maintenance to the synthetic? Are there any training courses relevant to synthetic turf maintenance that you or your staff should attend? Do you have a plan in place for on- site essentials such as bins and boot scrapers?

Seek free advice from those that already care for facilities and visit trade shows to gather relevant information.

Ensure that, if chosen, any “in-house” machinery conforms to manufacturers recommendations and that you and your staff are fully trained to operate effectively and safely. The machinery chosen should be fit for purpose, rigorously trialled and demonstrated.

Specialist maintenance companies should be fully researched prior to agreeing any ongoing agreement. Where have they worked? Who do they work for? Ask for testimonials and feedback from previous and current clients. Maintenance is now much more than just a brush, ensure that quality assurance becomes a staple – How will your maintenance regimen be monitored? What is your maintenance provider actually providing and why?

“In-house” and specialist will work in tandem; often the very best sites implement both. Is this viable financially (think long term)? Create a financial plan and communicate with your budgeting association.

Talk to your installer, they should provide you with all the information you require on how to pro-actively care for your surface over the short, medium and long term.

How to maximise revenue and usage from a facility.
To maximise revenue and usage from your facility, from a maintenance perspective, is about look, feel and availability.

The aesthetic value of your facility should not be underestimated. Good housekeeping should occur inside and out. You will be reliant on attracting repeat business and passing trade as well as word of mouth marketing from existing clientele, for these reasons it is important that the facility is all presented in an aesthetically pleasing condition.

It is crucial that the end user has an enjoyable experience when using the facility and does not feel the surface has a detrimental impact on their game. Correct maintenance will ensure the surface performs to the expectations of the manufacturer, owner and the customer. Failure to maintain the surface will certainly show, with tell tale signs of increased ball speed, unpredictable characteristics or reduced shock absorption resulting in injuries to the end user and certain dissatisfaction.

Maximising revenue from your investment requires maximum (chargeable) usage of the facility. Whilst the maintenance may impede on this time, it is crucial to be able to rely on the continued revenue stream generated by the facility. Failure to maintain may result in the surface being non operational for the protection of the user or the surface. The cost of preventative maintenance is often much less than the cost of emergency maintenance. It is worth remembering that revenue generated from ‘bolt on’ sources such as vending machines or bars is dependent on the end user wanting to play on the surface.

Due to the large number of factors involved when calculating the expected revenue generated from a facility, a means to calculate this has been included below. By entering your site-specific data into the calculator it should assist you when planning and budgeting on a financial level.

Annual Expenditure
A well maintained facility may last for between 12-15 years respectively whilst a poorly or non maintained surface may last as little as 5 years. This easily equates to ensuring maintenance is factored from the outset.

Maintenance is a cost; there is no way of dressing this element differently. We understand the pressures of ensuring constant revenue in today’s fiscal environment and maximising your asset. It is subsequently far more efficient financially to implement a maintenance budget. This can only be done effectively by communicating with Grounds Staff who should be empowered at an early stage to gather relevant fiscal information regards synthetic sports surface maintenance. It is also worth noting that you will need to build in “downtime” to accommodate scheduled maintenance procedures.

Whilst there is of course a cost or costs associated with pro-active maintenance the benefit is that a well-managed facility can relatively quickly return on expenditure. If your asset is kept in optimum condition, your revenue return will be maximised and for longer.

Equating your maintenance cost relates to surface standard, footfall, natural, environmental and staffing issues.

To create a benchmark figure, there is an easy to use calculator on the Replay Maintenance website. Go to The Green Room, register and click on the calculator page.

This figure is unique to your surface, creating a benchmark to compare with the Industry average and allowing you to make empirical decisions when planning, budgeting and maintaining your surface.

Expenditure is a crucial factor when considering your asset management. Careful budgeting will ensure that your surface longevity is full, safer play can be enjoyed by the end user and your return on investment is maximised.

Ensuring I am ready to maintain the surface.
During the procurement process it is vital that maintenance is factored as a very real consideration. Buying the correct equipment and service provision from your chosen supplier or suppliers at the outset will greatly improve the transition from completed build to operational facility.

Have you allowed for maintenance provision from the outset?
Is your Grounds Professional suitably trained or will you outsource this element?
Have you considered the advantages of specialist maintenance?
Has your facility supplier allowed for suitable access?
Have you allowed for litterbins and boot scrapers at appropriate locations?
What maintenance regime has been recommended by your pitch supplier?
Have you factored “downtime” into the booking schedule to allow for suitable maintenance?
Will you factor cash retention into gate receipts to allow for ongoing maintenance?
Have you fully researched what is required and asked how and why?
These are questions for consideration and will hopefully encourage further thoughts that may have been previously overlooked.

As you research your maintenance requirements for now and the future the obvious starting point is cost. This can limit your search or open up many other options available to you. Cost can obviously become prohibitive, but a more considered approach asks about VALUE.

Versatile; conditions on site will change, is your maintenance regime adaptable?
Advisory; are you getting the correct information relevant to you and your facility?
Learn; communicate with your peers, who is doing what and how well?
Underwrite; are you planning for today or could you agree a plan for the future?
Empower; encourage and support your staff to gather relevant information to aid selection.

Value is not just a cost question but also your chosen investment for the benefit of the facility. Investing time as well as finance will greatly enhance your selection protocol.

Safe use of the surface
The message thus far has clearly been pro-maintenance. Let’s assume that for whatever reason you have not already implemented a regimen, what could possibly go wrong?

Early onset of compacted fill:
Without de-compaction processes to invigorate and level the fill the onset of premature compaction is likely. This will hinder the play dynamic, create a firmer surface that could be deemed unsafe for play, encourage organic growth and will greatly reduce foot to surface friction value.

Inhibited drainage properties:
Whilst it is largely accepted that Intervention type processes will occur during the life span of your surface and that you should budget accordingly, ignoring your cyclical responsibility will only exacerbate potential drainage issues. Allowing contaminants to build unhindered by brush, rake, tine or chemical will quickly allow your surface to become slippery, unpredictable, prone to weather related play availability and ultimately unusable.

Organic material onset:
The UK climate is now more predisposed to organic growth. Without correct systems and processes you will soon be faced with a difficult problem to solve. Moss will grow and spread quickly if allowed to prosper within your surface. Organic growth is not only unsightly it will drastically reduce player traction, creating a slippery and hazardous surface.

Horizontal nap – fibre:
Fibre is designed to stand vertically supported by the fill (filled systems). The tensile strength of said fibre is dependent on it wearing from the tip down. A lack of maintenance will result in fibre laying horizontally, which is not only detrimental to surface life but creates a greater surface area by presenting the side of the grass. This is difficult to rectify and will result in traction issues. Fibre will also “lock” aiding
insipid drainage.

If seam degradation, vandalism or accidental damage occurs and fails to be noted this may result in areas where ball roll and bounce become dangerous. Gaps or tears will become trip hazards that could result in litigious activity. These are the more common problems associated with safe use, there are of course many more.

Safe use should also encompass intended activity. Be aware of guidelines stipulating correct footwear and if unsure ask.

Maintenance of the facility (Cleaning, walkways, drainage etc)
The facility is more than just the synthetic surface. The surround is more likely to draw customers to you as it is your focal contact. It is therefore necessary to implement a regime that encompasses not only the playing surface but that also cares for the surrounding area.

It is important to consider that customers will create litter and will need bins to dispose of it. These bins should be emptied regularly and signage should be erected to encourage their use.

Hardstand near to playing surfaces should be cleaned regularly to negate accumulated dirt and debris from cross contamination. The same can be said for surrounding paths that may allow dirt to travel via footwear onto your surface. Implementing a de-contamination grid can greatly reduce contaminants from travelling via footwear; alternatively boot scrapers will also prove a worthwhile investment.

Lateral drains beneath your playing area (if applicable) may periodically require intervention from a drainage specialist to remove accumulated material. These laterals will lead to a perimeter drainage system that should also be inspected to alleviate any costly faults arising from lack of maintenance.

Garry Martin is happy to offer advice or discuss any maintenance questions people have. Just call him on 01636 640506 or ask a question online.

Overview of Maintenance