How Radu and his team are dealing with a new kind of pressure in the run-up of the Euro’s and the crucial role of pitch data.
Radu Nizam is groundsman at National Arena Bucharest , one of the eleven EURO2020 venues. Working at a national stadium, Radu knows what it’s like to prepare a pitch for international games. He’s familiar with the expectations and the associated pressure. However, pressure is taken to a whole new level when preparing for the Euro’s; which involves creating a stage for entire football loving Europe to see. The stakes are high and there is no room for mistakes. So they do everything they can to leave nothing to chance. The basis? Data.
Radu: “We’re used to having the eyes of the entire country on the pitch. We always work hard and pay attention to detail, but with EURO2020 ahead we are even more precise. Not just because there’s a lot at stake, but also because we have a very tough growing climate with summer temperatures of over 40 degrees. In the beginning of May this year we have already hit 34 degrees. Since the EURO2020 takes place in June, we know there will be challenging conditions. We have four games, and the pitch needs to be in top condition from the kick-off of the first game up to the final whistle of the last one. We need to get it exactly right during these two weeks. Therefore we try to act and prep with surgical precision, and collect as much data as possible to avoid even the smallest mistakes.”
Radu feels the use of data results in more objective decisions than visual assessment: “Since the growing conditions change on a daily, and sometimes even hourly basis, we need to be aware of what is going on in and on the pitch 24/7. Often, these changes are not visible to the human eye, or when they are, you’re already too late. We use live data to keep track of the growing environment to make our maintenance schedule. The analyses and advice on the SGL Portal help a lot. Whenever conditions change we can directly adapt, for example with irrigation and nutrition. But we do not use data for planning ahead only. We also monitor pitch performance to see what the results of our decisions have been. That way we’re always progressing and staying on top of our game.”
Within pitch management there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Besides every pitch being different, the conditions from one side of the pitch to the other can vary greatly in big stadiums. So much so, that the required maintenance on one side needs to be different from the other in order to get a consistent quality. “One side of the stadium has little to no sunshine, even in summer, while the other side is covered in sunshine most of the day. With temperatures even 3-4 degrees higher in the stadium than outside, the sunny side of the pitch is very susceptible to heat stress. The heat in combination with the zero air circulation and high water demands, create a huge risk of turfgrass diseases. So we monitor the conditions, such as humidity, soil moisture, leaf wetness, temperature and EC all day, every day. Based on those values, and the calculated analyses and advice on the SGL Portal, we determine where and when to, for example, use our UVC180 and use our TC50 with or without cooling. This way we’re always a step ahead and we prevent rather than cure.”
Despite not having a Premier League like budget, Radu works with high tech monitoring systems and maintenance equipment: “In the end, it’s about making sure that the players can perform at the top of their game on a safe surface. We simply cannot take any risk with that, so we never compromise on quality. Every day we put our heart and soul in giving the pitch our very best. But that alone is not enough. Having the right technology is the base for creating a top quality playing surface, obtaining the knowledge to use that technology in the most effective way is crucial.”
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