Drought, degraded turf: how is Ligue 1 organized?

The rectangle is not so green anymore. The historic drought in France is weakening the grass and forcing clubs to regulate the watering of their turf. The sector is trying to adapt. During the first day of Ligue 1 last weekend, the large brown spots visible on the lawn of the Mosson challenged observers, accustomed in recent years to the perfect lawns of the French Championship, very telegenic.

And before the second day of Ligue 1, Lorient are also worried about their ground, damaged by the drought and the interceltic festival. Le Moustoir must be inspected by the authorities on Thursday and Friday before the Lyon reception on Sunday (1pm). In Hérault, it is a fungus in question, piricularia, which has also appeared in recent weeks in other places in France, such as on the Aube stage in Troyes.

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The temperature in the heart of the field can rise to 50 degrees

It is a fungus that proliferates especially in periods of great heat, but at the moment, the temperature in the heart of the field can rise to 50 degrees.”, explains David Garnerin, head of sports for the Troyes Champagne Métropole (TCM) conurbation, which manages the maintenance of the stadium. “Everything was there: a young lawn that needs to be watered a lot, temperatures that don’t drop at night, a heat that lasts. Whereas last summer, which was much less hot, there were no problems“, continues Bertrand Yot, responsible for the landscaped areas of the agglomeration, who manages the stadium’s gardeners. In Montpellier, the metropolis has recognized that the heat wave and drought condition”does(to own)difficult to eradicate the undesirable fungus“.

At the same time, the clubs have to deal with the water restrictions decided by prefectural decree in many areas of the country, put on drought alert at different levels. If the watering of green spaces or the filling of private swimming pools is prohibited in the event of a drought alert, football, like other outdoor sports, benefits from an exemption, with, more often, a strict limitation of watering times, prohibited in the middle of the day.

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But “a lawn that does not have water will develop less, turn yellow, brown, absorb less changes in direction and be much more heterogeneous“, points out Sébastien Cottat, business manager of the Sparfel group, which equips and maintains several professional club fields.”For now, let’s hold on. In Brest or Caen, watering only at night is not too much of a problem. We suffer much more in Corsica“, continues the specialist, who acknowledges that these restrictions prevent undertaking any soil regeneration, because “young seedlings require a lot of water“.

The right balance must be found, because the land is the working toolemphasizes Baptiste Malherbe, general manager of AJ Auxerre, which pumps its water to neighboring Yonne. But let’s be careful, limit as much as possible (watering)”. Suppliers, gardeners, players of the game and sports entities, however, have integrated these issues into the sector. Hybrid turf, currently widely used in professional football, thus offers “substrates with high water retention capacity“, asks Bertrand Yot, from the Trojan agglomeration.

At the Aube stadium, the annual water consumption therefore reached 3,000 m3 in 2018. By way of comparison, that of a nine-hole golf course is estimated at 25,000 m3 per the French Golf Federation. Some clubs, such as Marseille and Lille, also use rainwater recovery systems in their stadiums, which Rennes aims to install in its future training centre.

And in the face of the drought, the LFP suspended its turf championship awarding the best turf in Ligue 1, calling for a “water in the most rational way possible“who keeps a”minimum lawn quality“. Sustainable measures? Professionals in the sector do not hide their faces: “Sure, this summer is exceptional, but we know it’s probably just the beginning“, acknowledges Sébastien Cottat.

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