HKRU Premiership

Hong Kong Premiership gets first look at state-of-the-art self-cooling turf pitch designed to combat searing temperatures

The Football Club’s new addition uses a water retention product to reduce surface heat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 October, 2017, 9:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 October, 2017, 9:53pm

The Hong Kong Football Club’s new state-of-the-art turf pitch will see its first Premiership rugby action on Saturday, with players to benefit from cooling technology never before seen in Hong Kong.

The pitch, which opened in September, uses a combination of virgin rubber crumbs, Cool Plus yarn and a water retention product to combat the searing surface temperature common during the Hong Kong summer.

“What we have got for the first time in Hong Kong, and it’s one of the first ones in Asia, is we’ve added a product called Comfort Climate, which is a water retention sand like product that you add into your mix,” said Brian McLaughlin from Polytan, the company that installed the pitch.

“It’s in the infill in the field, it’s down below the rubber layer, and when you irrigate the field, it retains the water and cools the yarn over a period. It’s a 100 per cent natural product.”

The rubber crumbs are also different from the recycled tyre rubber used in many turf pitches, with Polytan using Infill EPDM ST granules.

The crumbs have also recently been used on pitches within the Happy Valley infield and elsewhere in Hong Kong.

“It’s an expensive product, but very high-quality German manufactured rubber, not a recycled product,” McLaughlin said.

“It’s very common in fields in Europe, even by law in some places where they don’t allow [recycled styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR)].

“Performance wise, SBR is pretty strong actually, very consistent performance in the long term [but] it’s a recycled product and it absorbs more heat so it makes the field a little bit hotter too. The EPDM will reduce temperatures over an equivalent SBR.

“There are a combination of factors that are going to bring down the surface temperature on this particular field.”

Rubber crumbs were in the headlines late last year when the English Schools Foundation closed a number of pitches for chemical testing, but those tests came back clear.

English Schools Foundation closes sports pitches at five schools for ‘chemical safety testing’

The HKFC pitch boasts World Rugby and Fifa pro quality certification, with McLaughlin saying “the combination of the Cool Plus yarn, the Comfort Climate cooling system and the EPDM makes it a premium surface”.

Hong Kong will play on the pitch against Kenya in November’s Cup of Nations and Hong Kong Rugby Union chief executive Robbie McRobbie is eager to see how it performs.

“It’s clearly quite exciting for us because heat is one of the main drawbacks of artificial pitches in Hong Kong,” he said.

“They tend to absorb the heat in the middle of the summer and you can see the heat rising off those pitches. We’re interested to see how well that system works.”

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HKFC will be looking to extend their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday when they host a Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC side still chasing their first win.

“They have obviously won three out of three and are top so it’s a massive challenge for us,” HKCC coach Brett Wilkinson said.

“I don’t think we are that far off. Going back to the Valley game [two weeks ago], we made 27 basic handling mistakes and a few glitches in defence. If we tighten that up we are going to be very much a different team.”

The weekend’s other matches see Kowloon take on Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers and Societe Generale Valley tackle Bloomberg HK Scottish.

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The KPMG Women’s Premiership is gearing up for its Super Saturday at Shek Kip Mei, with matches from 1.30pm.

Kowloon and HKFC kick things off before CWB Phoenix lock horns with Gai Wu, Tai Po meet Tigers and City Sparkle face Valley.