Synthetic vs. natural football pitch: comparison table

The cost of a synthetic pitch: a cost-effective investment?

The financial argument has often been put forward: “Thanks to the subsidies granted, the playing hours available, and the virtually zero maintenance costs, a synthetic pitch is the most cost-effective solution.” However, this statement is not accurate. The costs of installing (€400–500,000) and recycling the pitch are high, and the argument about unlimited hours needs to be qualified.

In point of fact, do all clubs really make use of the additional hours made possible by the synthetic? And what additional costs are incurred by using a pitch at night?

Is a natural pitch a durable choice?

A natural pitch is the longest-lasting choice, provided it is well maintained. In point of fact, the quality of the pitch maintenance is what will determine the durability of a natural pitch and the cost of maintaining it. The enormous advantage in maintaining natural pitches using robot mowers is the efficiency and quality of the cut, and all at a competitive cost. Moreover, opting for a natural pitch with robot mowing is an environmentally-friendly choice.

The environmental impact of synthetic pitches is colossal: synthetic fibres from the petrochemical industry, very negative carbon footprint for construction, and high recycling cost for synthetic pitches after 10 years’ use. Furthermore, a number of studies show that the risk of injury is greater on a synthetic pitch. Finally, the scientific studies contradict each other, but it is not proven that the “rubber infill” used on synthetic pitches, made from car tyre residues, is not carcinogenic.

Type of pitch Natural Natural using robot Hybrid using robot Synthetic
Playable hours per year 400 hours 600 hours 700 – 900 hours Unlimited
Usable during periods of frost Limited Limited Limited Slightly limited
Costs and maintenance
Installation € 120 – 180 000 € 135 – 195 000 € 250 – 400 000 € 400 – 500 000
Annual cost of mowing € 4 000 – 8 000 None None None
Irrigation Medium Medium Medium Low
Treatment (fertilizer & pesticides) High Medium Medium None
Other maintenance (sanding, scarification, aeration, etc.) High Medium Medium Low
Cost of recycling pitch None None Intermediate High
Environmental impact
Emissions High Very low Very low Faible/None
Clippings High None None None
Total carbon footprint High Low Intermediate Very high
Impact on health Favorable Favorable Favorable Negative
Thermal dissipation Natural absorption Natural absorption Natural absorption Up to 40% warmer

In conclusion, for small and medium football clubs, natural pitches equipped with a robot mower and high-quality maintenance are the best alternative. The larger football clubs in major towns will do well to combine a synthetic or hybrid football pitch with additional natural areas equipped with e robot mower.