The new synthetic turf fields with cork infill at Diegem Sport have been ruled unplayable, and, as such, will have to be replaced as soon as possible. The club is now forced to postpone over 60 training sessions a week until further notice.
Shortly after the handover of the two synthetic turf fields, the club experienced a downpour which resulted in the cork infill floating. To make matters worse, somehow, the layer of infill on top of the surface has become solid. Instead of two synthetic turf surfaces with cork infill, Diegem Sport (Belgium) now has two fields with the entire surfaces covered by a solid layer of cork.
It is not uncommon for cork infill to float when a field experiences significant rainfall in the first months after the handover. This is caused by air that is being pushed up by water that drained to the subbase. The problem can only be overcome by using the field as often as possible, as this will speed up the settling process for the infill.
The problem in Diegem is aggravated when the infill came into contact with a sticky substance. Alderman for sports, Peter Roose, blames the glue that was used for gluing the synthetic turf carpet. He claims that oil from the glue is the reason why the layer of cork infill on top of the surface has become solid.
Blaming glue is nonsense
Blaming the glue (for the carpet) is far-fetched. The fields in Diegem were installed by an experienced player who is known for strictly adhering to protocols. Having spoken to various industry players, Sportsfields.info has learnt the sticky problem can either be caused by the coating underneath the carpet or the use of second-hand cork infill derived from reclaimed cork that has been used for e.g. sound proofing. Perhaps glue residue still present in the cork, might have reacted to the excessive rainfall.
A hard blow
The problems have forced Diegem Sport to temporarily put on hold all activities for its youth department. Over 60 training session a week are currently being postponed.
“It hurts us to the core: Youth education is the foundation of our club’s existence and now we have to inform 350 youth players and 700 parents that their favourite sport and social activity is being suspended temporarily,” the club said in a statement on the Belgian website Sporza.
“The main contractors, their subcontractors, suppliers, insurance companies… They all blame each other when something goes wrong with the field.”
The fields will be assessed by a Dutch company in mid-November to establish whether the problem can be solved. Should that not be the case, both fields will have to be renovated before they have been used for a single activity.
Update 2 November: tests have established that the cork infill and stabilizing sand were contaminated with dust and dirt that ended up blocking the drainage holes in the backing. The excessive amount of water in the waterlogged field made the cork float and triggered a (chemical) reaction which resulted in the infill to cause a solid layer. An installing company will now puncture extra holes in the carpet to increase its drainage capacity, losing up and redistribute the cork infill by brushing it loose.