A number of high-profile court cases have now been brought by players who have taken sliding tackles across a line and ended up blinded by lime or poisoned by toxic or noxious substances. Players have been seriously injured or disabled. Clubs have had to pay compensation — in some cases a lot of compensation.
“We find 10 or 15 clubs a week that are still using lime or creosote in their lines,” reports Fleet Linemarkers sales manager Steve Hayman. “They say ‘we have always used it’ and ‘why should we change?’ We have even come across professional clubs still using lime. The situation is almost unbelievable.”
Based at Malvern in Worcestershire, Fleet Linemarkers supplies line-marking solutions to top football clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal. But Hayman says that dozens of clubs contact the company every month because they don’t know what they can and cannot apply in the line-marking process. The conversation often begins: “I believe I can’t use lime?”
Too right you can’t. No groundsman should be using lime, creosote, diesel, or any unapproved herbicide for the purposes of line marking under any circumstance. Hydrated lime — or calcium hydroxide to give it its scientific name — is toxic and can cause skin burns and irritation. It can burn the eyes and skin on contact, whether it is in its dry or wet form. Neither creosote nor diesel has approval for use on sports turf.
Part of the problem is that many groundsmen simply do not know where to find their nearest stockist of line-marking paints — but they do know the whereabouts of the nearest builders’ merchant. Some groundsmen also believe that by using lime, diesel or creosote they are somehow saving the club money. But when an accident happens, it can cost thousands in compensation. And just think of the misery that penny-pinching will have caused.
There is a wide range of marking compounds, paints and machines available that are designed to make the marking out of pitches a safe practice for the groundsman and for the players. The transfer wheel marker — still used by a huge number of groundsmen — looks, and indeed is, simple. It could be said it does the profession an injustice by making line marking so simple. In fact, the industry backing these simple marking machines is extremely high-tech. It involves the science of compounds and paints — specific gravities, whiteness indexing, hiding-power ratings, wear resistance, rain fastness and sedimentation testing.
But the actual job of putting the line down, to all but a few groundsmen, remains a chore. It is tedious, boring, time-consuming and repetitive. Week in, week out, the lines have to be clarified ready for the matches. The time and materials spent in line marking add up. So anything that keeps the lines visible for longer and lessens the requirement to re-mark must be bonus — but only if it is safe and legal.
Herbicides and the law
Until the Food & Environment Protection Act (FEPA) 1985 was introduced, many groundsmen would reinforce line marking with herbicides in order to keep the lines in longer and make them more visible during the playing season. It is a practice still used today but it is now only permissible with herbicides that are approved for use on sports turf or amenity grass, or for use as a total herbicide for treatment of non-crop areas – which is what the marked line becomes, technically speaking.
The herbicide must also carry a label recommendation for application by knapsack or other handheld spray equipment and all conditions of approval must be obeyed. Chemical company Bayer Environmental Science suggests that glyphosate, glyphosate trimesium, glufosinate ammonium, paraquat and diquat are the active ingredients most likely to be suitable. Note that such herbicides can only be used after the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations and a risk assessment has been carried out prior to the application, and the user must have obtained the Certificate of Competence in the Use of Pesticides — PA1, PA2A or PA6A.
If you must use a herbicide when line marking it is vital that there is no risk of player contact with the active herbicide. The method of application must avoid any reaction between the herbicide and the marking compound or paint, and also with the marking equipment. Certain herbicides cannot be used in unlined metal equipment or in aluminium-based equipment and any line-marking tapes contaminated with herbicide must be disposed of safely. You really must do your homework and understand the implications of using herbicides for marking out.
There are approved, ready-to-use white line-marking paints containing glyphosate available to groundsmen. Preline, available from suppliers Rigby Taylor of Bolton, is one such product and is intended for initial marking of turf surfaces. “A single application provides a bright, white line that lasts,” says RT business development manager Peter Bridgewater. “It saves time as there is no measuring or mixing, there are no ugly line burnings and the grass in not killed but recovers. The line diminishes over six to 10 weeks and when you overmark, you are actually marking on grass.”
As with most pre-prepared mixes the results of using herbicide-paint mixes are likely to vary according to location, sward density, grass growth, weather conditions and the time of year. Users would be advised to trial a small area before launching into full-scale use of any product.
Bayer Environmental Science recommends its herbicide Finale (active ingredient: glufosinate ammonium) for use through Dimple markers and other marking machines from Pressure Jet Markers. Finale controls grasses and broad-leaved weeds on contact and is less likely to spread than other herbicides – the result should be a line with crisp edges. It is also extremely economical. For new markings, just 80ml of Finale in five litres of water will treat 1,333 linear metres. The product can also be used as a total weed killer through knapsack sprayers.
If you are in any doubt about what you can and cannot apply when line marking it is best to play it safe and stick with the products and compounds available from reputable suppliers to the sports ground industry.
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