George Mullan bought Support in Sport eight years ago and has revitalised it from a business that recorded turnover just over £1m four years ago to one that’s projected to make around £9.5m this year. There has been some concern about the state of the pitch ahead of tonight’s final between Manchester United and Chelsea. The original synthetic ground was overlaid with a grass pitch but this wasn’t considered suitable for a Champions League final so Support in Sport was hired to construct a new playing surface. The company shipped 8,000 square metres of turf from Slovakia to Russia and spent two days working on the ground before handing it over to groundsman Matt Frost. Mullan says one of the big problems facing all re-turfs is stability. “If the turf doesn’t knit together, when you play on it you can see an awful lot of turf lifting and that becomes a real problem. Sometimes, when you’re transporting turf in a refrigerated truck, the leaf goes black.” However, Mullan says these problems didn’t occur in Russia when the pitch was laid. Support in Sport has worked for most of the Champions League clubs such as Manchester United and Benfica, and has also laid pitches for the World Cup. It’s the fourth time the company has “done a Champions League final”. Mullans notes: “There are probably four companies around Europe that do re-turfs but I suspect we’re the best known. The other companies are essentially turf farmers who grow turf and put it on pitches. We build pitches from start to finish.” It’s a complicated business, as Mullan explains: “You’ve got to excavate down 45 cm, choose the right sands, put in the right drainage system – it’s the whole package that ultimately makes the grass grow.” In Moscow, lasers were also used to level the surface to allow both teams to play a passing game. “The key thing is we’ve a track record,” Mullan says. “We’ve done more re-turfs than any other company in Europe – well over 80.” So, who will this football pitch entrepreneur be supporting tonight? No-one, says Mullan. We reckon he’s one man who’d be satisfied watching the grass grow instead. Picture source
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