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SBD Global/January 4, 2013/Facilities

Saracens Set To Become First Rugby Club To Play On Artificial Pitch

Premiership rugby side Saracens FC hopes "to reap the benefits" of becoming "the first professional rugby union side to play on an artificial surface," according to the BBC. Saracens will soon move into the new £500,000 ($812,000) Allianz Park in the London borough of Barnet that features an artificial pitch. The pitch has a lifetime of eight years and is made up of three separate layers. Saracens Performance Dir Scott Murphy said that the technology of artificial grass "has moved on from the surfaces seen in football during the '80s and early '90s." Murphy: "Now we have a synthetic fibre which is tough enough to sustain the heavy contact and use of a rugby pitch but forgiving enough to allow the safety of the players and the game to be at the forefront" (BBC, 1/3).

GOOD REVIEWS: In London, Mick Cleary wrote, "If first impressions matter, there was no disputing the glee with which Saracens hooker Schalk Brits launched himself on to the pitch with an extravagant belly-dive and slide. No friction burns marks there." Brits: "I was a bit worried to be truthful. You wondered if it would be too hard, too unresponsive or even if there would be enough grip for a front-row and scrummaging. I was surprised. It’s a lot softer than I imagined." There is "more than marketing gloss to this Saracens enterprise." This appears to be "a well thought through initiative, inclusive as well as innovative." Of course, part of the reason for embracing the community "is good PR." Planning applications can be slowed for years "if there is even a peep of local objection." The area is "ripe for interaction." It is "traditional Saracens north London turf, only a few miles from their old stamping ground of Southgate." There is "a large Jewish population, which is why there will be a kosher kitchen on site." There "will be few regrets at leaving Watford’s dilapidated Vicarage Road behind" (TELEGRAPH, 1/2).
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