RFU’s £50m artificial pitch rollout begins in Aylesbury, Preston and Weston-super-Mare

Aylesbury, Preston and Weston-super-Mare are the first towns to benefit from floodlit artificial pitches under the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) four-year development plan.

To create a “legacy” following the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the governing body is investing £50m (US$66.5m, €59.2m) to create 100 artificial grass pitches across England.

Of the 100, 60 will be built on rugby club sites to be used by host clubs, other local clubs, schools and community groups, while a further 40 will be earmarked for community sites with a guaranteed number of hours dedicated to rugby use.

The first three surfaces are due to be complete by the end of the year, and will be used primarily by Aylesbury RFC, Preston RFC and Hornets RFC, based in Weston-super-Mare.

According to the RFU, the project will see 16,000 new regular participants taking part in rugby.

As well as the superior playing surface, RFU rugby development director Steve Grainger said the pitches would be less susceptible to bad weather.

“Over the last four years, RFU data shows that wetter winters are having a serious impact on the rugby season, resulting in more games and training sessions being cancelled,” he said, adding that 1,766 matches were lost over two weekends in February 2014.

Grainger added: “Each new artificial grass pitch will enable between 1,500 and 2,000 additional hours of rugby within the respective local communities each year, giving 58,000 new players the opportunity to play rugby each year while ensuring poor weather no longer compromises play.”

First published on www.sportsmanagement.co.uk, written by Matthew Campelli, 13 Sep 2016