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'I Will Be There At Some Of The Games – But I Won’t Be Watching The Football'

'I Will Be There At Some Of The Games – But I Won’t Be Watching The Football'
By PJ Browne Updated

Ireland may not have any players on the pitch at this summer's World Cup but there will be an indirect Irish influence on the action.

Six of the 12 stadium pitches at the World Cup have been installed by an Irish-owned company.

SIS Pitches, which was established by Sligo man George Mullan in 2001, laid the pitches at the Luzhniki Stadium, Otkritie Arena, Rostov Arena, Kaliningrad Stadium, Samara Arena and Saransk Arena.

The pitches have been created using the company's sophisticated reinforced natural turf system, called SIS Grass. They are comprised of 95 per cent natural grass and five per cent yarn.

It means the final on July 15th will be the first World Cup decider to be played on a surface other than all-natural grass.

Pitches are formed using specialised machines which inject synthetic yarn into the grass using laser guidance. In all 10 tonnes of yarn, 48,000km in length - enough the circle the globe and more - is used to form each pitch.

There are also 5,000 tonnes of sand and 3,500 tonnes of gravel incorporated. The hybrid pitch ensures more stability and is one which can stand more playing hours than a traditional grass surface.

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SIS also installed three training pitches at the Luzhniki and four at the Otkritie Arena.

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During the tournament, SIS staff will maintain the Luzhniki pitch. They have already handed over maintenance of the five other pitches to the stadium management of each venue.

"We will have 12 people at the pitch throughout the tournament, making sure that the surface is perfect before every game," said CEO George Mullan.

"They will then repair the pitch if any damage has been caused during the game. I will be there personally at some of the games – but I won’t be watching the football; I will be concentrating on the surface!

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"Luzhniki will have the heaviest program of games, training sessions as well as hosting the opening ceremony and the rehearsals for the opening ceremony. We already have had six rehearsals for the opening ceremony, 15 training sessions and seven matches on the pitch; this is all apart from the activity on the training pitches.

"Maintaining a pitch under these circumstances can be challenging as the opening ceremony, which will include Robbie Williams and other performers, is taking place on the pitch just half an hour before the first game kicks off. Some 80,000 football fans will be in the stadium and many millions will be watching around the world. However, our team will be pitch-side to make sure that the surface is maintained to the highest standards."

In addition, the company's aeration technology, SISAir, has been installed at three stadiums, including the Luzhniki. It will made the Moscow venue's pitch the most technologically advanced in World Cup history.

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SISAir, which is also used at the Otkritie Arena and Rostov Arenas, ensures that a pitch can be drained of moisture within seconds. This is done by a network of pipes - 40km under each pitch - which force air through the soil beneath the playing surface.

Though directed by Mullan from Sligo, SIS Pitches is an international business with 341 employees worldwide. It has offices in the UK, Holland, Russia, the Middle East and Angola. Its pitches have been installed at the homes of Chelsea, Bournemouth, Fulham and Celtic.

See Also: Irish Company Will Have Major Influence On World Cup's Biggest Names

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