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SBD Global/December 17, 2012/Facilities

Plastic Pitch To Be Installed At Millennium Stadium Prior To 2015 Rugby World Cup

Traditionalists are angered that Wales' Millennium Stadium will receive a plastic pitch.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup will "almost certainly" be played on plastic turf at Wales' Millennium Stadium in "a decision that will anger traditionalists," according to Stephen Jones of the SUNDAY TIMES. The Welsh Rugby Union is "ready to dig up the often troublesome turf" at the Millennium Stadium and replace it with an artificial surface. WRU CEO Roger Lewis said an artificial grass pitch “is being given serious consideration. We are looking at the implications.” Broadcasters and marketing men, however, "will applaud the move, which would end the much-publicised struggles of Millennium Stadium staff to provide a good surface." The turf at the ground has to be replaced several times a year, partly because "sunlight is blocked by the steep stands." At least six matches in the next World Cup will be played at Cardiff. Well before then, the grass is "expected to be replaced" by the artificial surface, which includes, from the bottom up, a layer of stone aggregate, a thick black rubber shock pad and a covering of artificial green yarn to a depth of 5cm, with an infill of black rubber crumb (SUNDAY TIMES, 12/16). In London, Sunni Upal reported the Int'l Rugby Board has approved the surface with the only sticking point for the WRU being "whether it can handle the heavy equipment used for music shows, which provide a good source of revenue." Traditionalists are "unhappy that an artificial pitch removes bad bounces and the need for teams to change or adapt their style for the conditions" (DAILY MAIL, 12/16).

WAY OF THE FUTURE: In London, Jones also wrote in a separate piece for the SUNDAY TIMES "all this is anathema to traditionalists," but Premiership side Saracens "are unapologetic." They are "anxious to develop a partnership with the local community and the surface will be available for use by local schools and clubs." Whereas a grass pitch "can be typically used for about two to five hours a week, the latest artificial surfaces can be used for more than 40 hours a week and require minimal maintenance." Saracens High Performance Dir Scott Murphy believes that such pitches are "the way of the future." Murphy: “We have gone for the artificial option because we are anxious to develop it for community use but also because we pride ourselves on being ground-breaking and trail-blazing." The plans for Allianz Park suggest it will be a "driving force for the rest of the sport in terms of spectator facilities, with several innovations planned." There will be "an outlet from a high-street pizza chain, with messengers delivering food to the crowd at halftime; there will be an iPhone app available that will offer instant replays from various angles; and the ground will boast the 'longest bar in rugby.'" The pies "will be organic and the rugby mud-free and safe from the risk of postponed matches" (SUNDAY TIMES, 12/16).
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