New synthetic turf for Swiss football champions the Young Boys

Stade de Suisse, Bern

The 2018/19 season saw Bern’s BSC Young Boys – also known as BY or BSC BY – celebrate winning the Swiss Raiffeisen Super League Championship for the thirteenth time in the club’s history. The team succeeded in securing the title with a phenomenal 91 points as early as 13 April, a full eight rounds before the championship’s conclusion – at the earliest stage and with the most points in the Swiss league’s history.

From the legendary Wankdorf Stadium into the modern Stade de Suisse

Since 2005 the long-established club, which dates all the way back to 1898, has played its home games at the Stade de Suisse in Wankdorf, Bern; with around 31,000 covered seats and standing spots, the stadium is Switzerland’s second largest – right behind St. Jakob Park in Basel.

The Stade de Suisse was erected between 2001 and 2005 on what, for German football fans at least, is truly historic ground: it was in the stadium that previously occupied this site that the “Miracle of Bern” took place in 1954, when Germany became football world champions for the first time.

This same former stadium was also home at the time to the BC Young Boys, who, with almost 22,000 members, are the biggest sports club in Switzerland. The present-day stadium development in Bern also includes one of Switzerland’s largest shopping centres, a school, a number of apartments, and a solar power plant integrated into the stadium roof. The stadium has been awarded Category 4 status by UEFA, meaning that it meets the European football association’s highest standards.

BSC Young Boys – playing their home games on synthetic turf since 2005

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Another special feature of the stadium is that it is presently one of two football stadiums in Europe where a premier league football club plays its home games on synthetic turf – the club has done so almost continuously since its opening game at the stadium on 16 June 2005. The second synthetic turf system was installed by Polytan at the Stockhorn Arena in the Canton of Bern – home of premier club FC Thun – in 2016.

Two substitutions of natural turf

The Stade de Suisse’s synthetic turf playing surface has been replaced with natural turf only two times: for three group matches of the UEFA European Football Championship in 2008, and between December 2011 and June 2014.

For the 2014/15 season, a synthetic turf from Polytan was chosen for the first time, in the form of the LigaTurf RS Pro CoolPlus system. The switch from natural to synthetic turf enabled the YBs not only to significantly improve their training operations at the Stade de Suisse, but also to make enormous savings in football pitch maintenance costs. The switch also made it economically possible to use the Bern stadium as a venue for major events as well.

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The newest generation of synthetic turf football pitches: LigaTurf RS Pro II CP

After 5 years and over 100 matches, the record-holding Swiss champions decided once again in 2019 to play their home games on the latest generation of synthetic turf football pitches – the LigaTurf RS PRO II CoolPlus from Polytan. This is the same system that the pros at FC Thun have been playing on at the Stockhorn Arena since 2016.

The “champion turf” from the Stade de Suisse was removed and installed anew at Wädenswil, where Swiss second league club FC Wädenswil will enjoy the benefits of the synthetic turf system over the coming years.

High-quality turf for the Stade de Suisse

When selecting their new artificial turf, the managers of BSC Young Boys placed paramount importance on the highest quality. Excellent form stability played just as decisive a role as high fibre density, very good shock absorption, and minimal heat build-up. All of these criteria are fulfilled by the LigaTurf RS PRO II CoolPlus, thanks to its intelligent yarn design and material composition,

and to its modern EPDM infill, which likewise helps to ensure that the synthetic turf at the Stade de Suisse demonstrates outstanding playing properties. A thicker surface structure reduces splash to a minimum and better holds the infill in the subsurface.

A natural grass appearance, even in TV broadcasts

In addition to playing quality, the managers of BSC Young Boys also placed importance on having a synthetic turf appearance similar to that of natural turf. In TV broadcasts especially, the old pitch, which was closer to olive green in colour, had been considered unattractive.

New colour Line/Field Green was a big improvement in this respect – the pitch now appears naturally green, lush, and thick – even on the screens of digital devices. Contributing to this impression is Polytan’s BiColour design, which works two different shades of green into a single filament.

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New synthetic turf: built on the existing elastic layer

The new synthetic turf was laid by garden and sports ground construction specialists Bächler+Güttinger. As there was no need to replace the substructure, including turf heating, installation proceeded quickly and to schedule. The new turf was rolled out onto the existing elastic layer and filled with stabilizing quartz sand and shock-absorbing EPDM infill.

The average service life of a synthetic turf system is twelve years, while the elastic layer in the subsurface retains its functionality for up to 30 years or longer. This means that the playing surface can be replaced several times without the subsurface being affected.

Synthetic turf systems in European football stadiums

After many years of premier league football stadiums being fitted with Polytan synthetic turf systems in France as well, in Europe there are presently two Swiss Super League clubs whose large stadiums are home to low-maintenance synthetic grass: BSC Young Boys at the Stade de Suisse – formerly Wankdorf Stadium – and FC Thun at the Stockhorn Arena. Both play on the same turf – a LigaTurf RS Pro II CoolPlus system from Polytan with a high-quality EPDM rubber granule infill.

BSC Young Boys played their first match on the new synthetic turf against league climbers Servette Geneva on 21 July 2019. Although this ended in a 1:1 draw, the next two home games, against FC Lugano (2:0) and FC Zürich (4:0), were won with goals to spare.

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