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Section A - Introduction

This document provides outline guidance for the appropriate development of a site suitable for Rugby played on natural turf.

Lack of appropriate planning in the early stages of a development can be costly in the short term and adversely affect the sustainability of a facility over the medium and long term. A poorly considered proposal that results in the development of a mediocre facility will discourage users and often result in increased maintenance costs. It is therefore important that any proposed facility is planned in a logical and conscientious manner.

The information contained within this document does not attempt to give detailed guidance on a site specific basis for the design, construction and maintenance of all facilities and it is strongly recommended that further advice be sought from qualified, experienced, independent professionals who can offer detailed recommendations based on site specific information.


Agronomist -

person who studies the science and technology of plants and soils

Backfill -

to refill with material already dug out of something

Capillary porosity -

volume of pores within soil able to retain water against the force of gravity

Compaction -

increase in the density of the soil

Cultivars -

variety of plant selected intentionally through cultivation

Grading -

ensuring a level base

Rootzone -

the growing medium, may comprise natural topsoil or a material, formulated from sand and soil or sand and organic material, that acts as a growing medium

Scarify/scarification -

to break up the surface of the soil

Stolon -

horizontal stem that grows along the surface of soil

Sward -

expanse of short grass

Top dressing -

the application of a material, usually sand to improve immediate surface levels and drainage

Topography -

graphic representation of a region’s surface

This resource has been produced by the STRI, Bingley, West Yorkshire, BD16 1AU on behalf of the International Rugby Board. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is intended only to outline the basic information. Such information is not intended to constitute a specification or comprehensive guidance in relation to any project/subject which should only be undertaken after consultation with those holding appropriate qualifications. The STRI employs persons so qualified who can provide advice and/or relevant specifications. The STRI accept no responsibility or liability for any claims arising from work carried out pursuant to this Booklet. If you would like further information, please contact the Head of Advisory Services at the STRI:

Tel: +44 (0) 1274 565131

1) Identifying a suitable site for development

Whether the site supports an existing facility or it is proposed that a new facility be developed, it is always useful to review the site to determine the most efficient positioning of pitches within the available area. Club needs often change over time and an efficient layout will be more economic to both construct and maintain. Consideration should be given to current needs and anticipated future demands.

An initial appraisal can identify the suitability of any site prior to engaging an appropriately qualified designer. Some of the initial aspects of any development to consider at the early planning stages are:

1) Site wide elements

Is there sufficient space for the proposed facility and adequate space for any future expansion?

Can the pitch or pitches be accommodated to avoid low sun angles both from a player and spectator perspective?

How does the topography of the site determine the need and extent of any earthworks required?

Pitches will have to conform to current size guidelines as contained in the IRB Laws of the Game Law 1 – The Ground


The site must be able to accommodate adequate run off safety margins.

2) Access

Can the site be easily accessed for vehicular traffic during construction and then, when in use, will neighbours object to the potential development?

Can the site accommodate sufficient car parking for the size of the facility?

Can the site be accessed easily by emergency vehicles?

3) Drainage, irrigation and services

As part of the development it may be necessary to install a drainage system. How will collected water be discharged from the site?

In an urban setting there may be restrictions on the quantities of water that can be discharged, necessitating the development of a sustainable urban drainage system.

As part of the development it may be necessary to install an irrigation system. Is there a suitable water source for this system?

Are services, such as electricity, water and sewerage easily accessible?

4) Environment

Are there any environmental influences that may affect the development of the site? Is it located on a floodplain, for example?

The aspect and elevation of the site will influence sward growth characteristics and should be considered during the design stages.

Does the site support any rare or endangered species that will preclude it from development?

Are there likely to be environmental constraints to growing a healthy sward, for example inside a modern stadium?

As part of the development, will pitch lighting be required? Does this impact upon neighbouring properties and will planning permission be required?

Will planning permission be required to develop the facility and if so what are the requirements of the local authority for a planning submission?

5) Construction

Can local materials be utilised in the construction of the facility if required? The site feasibility stage undertaken by a specialist sports surface consultant should determine the most cost effective means of construction.

Is a full history of the site available including previous usage? Are there any potential contaminated materials stored on site? Despoiled, reclaimed or contaminated sites will require special attention.

Any previous site investigation reports or analysis should be collected and made available to the designer.

Earthworks can be the most costly element within any development and these can be minimised with the careful orientation and positioning of pitches. Furthermore, in a natural pitch construction it is important that the movement of soils is kept to a minimum whenever possible. Unless gradients and levels are suitable then some form of earthworks will be inevitable. Cutting in to steep slopes should be avoided as it can increase the risk of landslip or require engineered structures to reduce this risk.

Figure A1: Many factors must be considered before developing a site

It is strongly recommended that a thorough investigation of the site is completed to identify any potential constraints to its development. This site investigation should be undertaken by a specialist sports turf consultant with Professional Indemnity Insurance cover.

2) Formulating an end user profile

Since pitch performance is often determined by construction method and ongoing maintenance, the following information should be collected to inform the most appropriate type of construction to employ in the locality based upon a user profile:

  • Clearly identify the sports to be played on the pitch month by month. Multi-use facilities will have a greater demand than Rugby alone.
  • Is the facility to be used solely for Rugby or to form part of a wider development where the pitch could exist as part of an outfield?
  • What is the expected level of pitch performance i.e. international, regional, local or junior standard?
  • Are there any design life criteria or performance criteria that have to be accommodated, e.g. drainage design rates?
  • Will the facility be used for training or only for matches?
  • Will the facility have floodlighting installed and is this for training or televised matches?
  • How many hours each week is the facility to be utilised and is this usage confined to the winter months, summer or year round?
  • What is the age profile of the players?
  • Will the facility be available for other uses, e.g. for concerts, as a temporary storage area or for car parking?
  • What resources will be available to maintain the facility? Is the maintenance likely to be done in-house or contracted externally?
  • What are the financial constraints of the project development and subsequent aftercare maintenance?

In addition to the above, it will be important to take into account any potential development and expansion of the club and requirements for additional facilities. The pitch development may only form part of a wider development of the club’s facilities and should be placed in this context. This will help to ensure that the most cost effective solution is found for the development.

Figure A2: The pitch should perform to the desired standard being catered for
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