Big freeze: Premiership has it covered

Wed, 26 Dec 2012 08:23
Large the rec water Large frozen pitch2 Large ball on snow Large frozen pitch Large flooded pitch

The Premiership is one code that need not worry about the big freeze, thanks to the adoption of a pitch-covering system.

While other sports sweat over how much havoc the British weather may wreak on prospective winter schedules, the Premiership need not worry thanks to the adoption of a pitch-covering system.

With the mercury hitting single figures, pitches across the country are subject to freezing but a partnership between Premiership Rugby and Sports and Stadia Services, an investment worth £200,000, has nullified that threat.

All 12 clubs now employ the MacLeod cover - a huge pitch cover with a central inflatable tube which allows warm air to be blown underneath to protect a pitch from freezing or, in some circumstances, defrost the ground.

And evidence of its effectiveness can be found during February of last year when low temperatures threatened the LV= Cup schedule - however matches at Sale Sharks, Harlequins, Bath, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester and London Wasps all went ahead.

Nigel Felton, owner of Sports and Stadia Services, said: "During that weekend without our covers those games would not have gone ahead.

"Originally we provided just three systems but last season they decided they wanted five and so last winter was the first time we had those in place and to good effect.

"When we had 12 clubs, some were reluctant but now even those that have under-soil heating have bought into the fact that the system is very helpful.

"Everybody benefits and there is no room for games getting cancelled especially when you consider the hectic schedule and international fixtures."

Clubs are informed on whether the system will be required by Felton, who will make a recommendation based on a seven-day weather forecast.

And despite a milder than usual December period, Felton insisted the decision to use the equipment was a no-brainer considering the hassle generated by postponements.

"I will send forecasts out to the clubs and recommend whether they need to put the system in place and how long in advance," added Felton.

"Typically if bad weather is predicted the system will be in place the Tuesday before a Saturday game.

"We are more interested in preventing the pitch from freezing rather than defrosting it as that is no good for the surface.

"I think it's a no-brainer for the clubs. If the cost is spread across the league, by saving just one game a year it will be beneficial to all involved.

"In the time we have been working with Premiership Rugby there has not bee a season where we haven't saved a number of games."

Premiership Rugby, the umbrella organisation of the Aviva Premiership clubs has made a considerable financial commitment to the pitch protection scheme and is committed to ensuring all matches go ahead.

"Without the SSS systems it is highly likely that games would be called off and we would face the prospect of midweek rugby," said Phil Winstanley the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby.

"By ensuring that our fixtures have the best possible chance of going ahead we maintain the integrity within our competitions and we protect player welfare by minimising the risk of rearranged midweek matches.

"We can't control the elements and won't always win the battle when extreme conditions on the roadways and concourses around our grounds force games to be postponed , but we can do everything in our power to make sure that pitches are playable and that rugby union in England suffers as little disruption as possible."

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Fri, 23 March 2018
Crusaders v Bulls 06h35 Christchurch
Rebels v Sharks 08h45 Melbourne
Connacht v Edinburgh 19h35 Sportsground
Dragons v Cheetahs 19h35 Rodney Parade
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre 19h35 Scotstoun
Bath v Exeter Chiefs 19h45 Recreation Ground
Sat, 24 March 2018
Sunwolves v Chiefs 04h15 Tokyo
Hurricanes v Highlanders 06h35 Wellington
Kings v Treviso 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
London Irish v Gloucester 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Harlequins 15h00 London
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Stormers v Reds 15h15 Newlands
Cardiff Blues v Ulster 15h15 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Scarlets 17h30 Thomond Park
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 17h30 Kingston Park
Ospreys v Leinster 19h35 Liberty Stadium
Jaguares v Lions 19h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Team P W D L Pts
Exeter Chiefs 17 12 0 5 61
Wasps 17 11 1 5 54
Saracens 17 11 0 6 53
Newcastle Falcons 17 11 0 6 50
Leicester Tigers 17 10 0 7 47
Gloucester 17 9 1 7 46
Bath 17 9 0 8 45
Sale Sharks 17 8 0 9 43
Harlequins 17 7 0 10 36
Northampton Saints 17 6 0 11 31
Worcester Warriors 17 5 0 12 27
London Irish 17 2 0 15 15