The Dutch FA (KNVB) has established an online portal to help clubs and groundsmen in achieving the best possible natural grass football pitches. The platform brings technology, knowledge and expertise available in the Netherlands, together in one place.
The platform is called Innovation Platform Grass and will, in addition to facilitating networking, initiating research and kickstarting innovations, above all, help gather and disseminate knowledge and information.
Expertise is mainly drawn from companies and institutes in the Netherlands. “The Netherlands is known worldwide for the quality of its (sports) grass. The grass surfaces used for World Cups and European Championships are often shipped in from the Netherlands. Equipment developed and produced in the Netherlands is also widely in use for the maintenance and management of fields,” says the Dutch FA, motivating a focus on Dutch companies and institutes.
Field quality improvement
The portal should help establish equal playing fields for all football clubs throughout the Netherlands as well as the standardisation of grass pitches. “Players demand high-quality natural grass pitches, as it improves the playing experience as well as the fan experience and also improves safety for the players. Moreover, it makes competitions fairer,” says KNVB Policy Advisor for Facilities, Patrick Balemans.
The platform should also assist clubs and groundsmen in improving the efficiency of their maintenance and implementing preventative maintenance over the reactive maintenance most clubs and groundsmen currently pursue. “The focus will be more on resources and activities to maintain the field. This ties in with the Green Deal for sports fields that pursues sports surfaces being maintained in a more sustainable manner,” Balemans explains.
More technological approach
The platform builds on a virtual dashboard the FA introduced in 2021 for clubs in the highest football league in the Netherlands. Data collection from a range of sensors in the various stadium fields in the Netherlands will be automated this year.
The collected data will be used for the development of maintenance modules. It will also assist in preventing injuries.
From next season, data from other sensors and data collectors (such as weather stations) will also be processed in real time and added to the data lake. All knowledge together should enable the Dutch FA to write algorithms on the relationship between sports-technical properties and cultural-technical activities.
In future, these algorithms should facilitate the distribution of electronic warnings to targeted clubs and groundsmen regarding the necessity of certain maintenance activities to prevent damage or infections of the field. Similar alerts for pests and diseases are also being envisioned.
The KNVB describes the platform as accessible, complete, independent, sustainable and something that has been and will be a collective effort. Organisations like Dutch professional football clubs, the Dutch FA, the industry, the Dutch Government and knowledge institutions will all participate in the platform.