Certainly in England we are seeing the hottest summer on record. Grass is parched, the ground is rapidly turning to dust and there is no sign of a respite on the horizon. If you are lucky enough to be able to water your sports field, then its greenness will stand out from the brown surrounds, just as the golf greens at Carnoustie stood out from the fairways and rough at the British Open.


The dry fairways at Carnoustie. (Picture: Jason Cairnduff / Reuters)

In such circumstances playing football on a sunburnt pitch is not much fun – high ball bounce, hard under foot, unforgiving to fall on and even worse to slide on. Playing rugby can even be dangerous and many clubs and schools will be cancelling early season matches until heavy rains arrive to soften the fields. So, what is the answer?

Many will say this is when synthetic turf pitches come into their own. Green and true, available in the dry as much as in heavy winter rains, this answer is most definitely correct. But it must be viewed with slight caution. A dry, hot synthetic turf pitch can cause burns, in a similar way to a player falling, at speed, on a dry, grassless, natural turf field. The cause of the “burn” is the rubber infill which traps heat in the surface. So, next question: how do you cope with this?

There are three options:
1. Water the pitch to cool it down.
2. Use a system which has cool technology in the fibre and uses a natural infill material, such as cork, to keep the surface temperature down.
3. Play, but stay on your feet.
Of course, the latter is a risk, and liberal application of Vaseline to knees, elbows and exposed skin is recommended.

Playing on a synthetic field in hot weather does not damage the surface, the resilience from a shockpad beneath is not affected and most importantly, the game goes on. In contrast, natural turf takes time to recover; weeds that thrive better in dry conditions than grass, appear. So, stay off the natural grass until it has recovered, play on the synthetic pitch, but please use your common sense when considering the risk of burns.