Bundesliga and LaLiga clubs pioneers of green revolution

Top football leagues commit
to eco-friendly disease prevention

SGL supports clubs in their transition to sustainable and environmentally friendly disease control.

Turf Cooling system by SGL at the Camp Nou Pitch of FC Barcelona

Climate and stadium design often create favourable conditions for grass diseases, and this has always been a challenge for groundsmen. The introduction of the Green Deal in 2020 did not seem to make life any easier. But, while it could have been a thorn in their side, it called upon their adaptability and expertise and, as always, they were quick to adjust. The switch to alternative and more sustainable treatment methods was made by many groundsmen. With Bundesliga and LaLiga clubs as pioneers, the green revolution is now well underway. So how do they manage their new way of working?

The UVC180 and TC50 have been widely used to prevent turfgrass diseases in an environmentally friendly way. UV-C technology actively treats the grass and affects the fungus, while the TC50 impacts the growing climate to create a healthy environment. A combination of both technologies heavily decreases disease pressure and minimizes chances of outbreak, a method that is used by FC Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, among others.

Head Groundsman at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Georg Schmitz, is a loyal advocate of sustainable technology and believes that sports clubs and stadiums worldwide have a duty to control diseases in the most natural way possible. One year ago, Georg started with UV-C treatment on his pitch and the use of fungicide in the BayArena has been reduced to a minimum ever since. A positive development, in Georg’s opinion: “Many chemicals have been banned and herbicides will be completely be banned from 2023 onwards. There is a realistic chance that more chemicals will follow. But waiting was not an option for us. We just had to change our way of thinking. We opted for UV-C technology in combination with a strict nutrient programme. Since then, the plant is so well protected that we’ve only had to use pesticides once in the last two years.”

In Spain, where summers are often humid with high temperatures, there is a great risk of turfgrass diseases. Especially in enclosed stadiums. Maintenance Manager at Real Sociedad, Koldo Anza: “As a result of the reconstruction work on the Estadio de Anoeta, the pitch was lowered by 1.5 meter and the roof extended by 10 metres around its perimeter. This caused a significant change in the conditions of the grass, which increased the incidence of plant stress and diseases.” With six turf coolers and the calculated cooling advice on the SGL Portal, it is now possible for Koldo to reduce the temperatures at grass level in summer by 4-5°C and to increase air circulation. The TC50 heavily decrease the disease pressure in summer. “We are aware of the impact of chemical products on the planet. Thanks to the TC50 we managed to reduce the consumption of chemical products and our ecological footprint.”

Due to changes in humidity and temperature in North-Germany, football club Hamburger SV needed to take preventive measures. Greenkeeper Christoph Strachwitz from HSV praises the combination of data and technology in the club’s maintenance plan. “Fifty to seventy-five percent of the decisions we make are based on data collected by monitoring equipment and the advice we receive from agronomists. We look at the disease forecast each day to monitor the disease pressure. Depending on the forecast, we decide when to treat the pitch with UV-C light in a preventive manner.” While UV-C technology is encouraged to be used as a preventive treatment, it can also be used as a cure. Christoph concludes: “You can clearly see that active fungus can be stagnated with the UVC180. Treat it two days in a row, first with a special broom to disinfect, and then again with UV-C technology and you will destroy 100% of the fungus.”

Sebastian Kowa, groundsman at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, agrees with this statement: “We’ve applied significant lower amounts of chemicals than before, as the UV-C technology works very effectively against Snow mold, Fusarium and Leaf spot.”

These are just a few of the many German and Spanish clubs that have taken the step to put priority on sustainable pitch management. Over the last years, also Eintracht Frankfurt and SV Werder Bremen have switched to UVC180 treatment. Recently, new turf coolers were installed at Levante UD.

UV-C radiation

The UVC180 has been specially developed to keep sports grass playing surfaces fungus free, by breaking down the DNA of plant fungal diseases with UV-C radiation. When biological organisms are exposed to UV-C radiation in the range of 200 nm to 300 nm, the light penetrates through the cell wall and disrupts the molecules. Disrupted DNA or RNA cannot replicate and therefore the fungus dies before it causes any damage to your grass. Because grass cells are much more resistant to UV-C radiation than fungal or virus cells, the amount of UV-C light radiated by the UVC180 is high enough to kill the fungi and viruses, while the grass plant is not affected.

Adiabatic cooling

With stadiums constantly getting larger and more enclosed this can lead to a damp and still environment. Turf fans help to accelerate the drying of the plant with increased air flow and circulation.TC50’s are also used to cool down playing surfaces in order to prevent plant stress and grass diseases. The TC50 consist of a fan and a cooling mechanism. The fan can be used with our without the cooling. The cooling mechanism of the TC50 sprays mist up to 50 metres across the pitch. The mist withdraws the heat at grass level and evaporates before it descends on the grass. This process is called adiabatic cooling and ensures that the temperature at grass level decreases, leaving behind a cooler pitch without the plant getting wet.