Sports Technology Institute

Postgraduate

Mr Frazer Anderson MSc Advanced Materials Engineering (2013) - Edinburgh Napier University, BSc Sports Technology (2012) - Edinburgh Napier University

Photo of Mr Frazer Anderson

Postgraduate Researcher

Project

Novel Assessment and Characterisation of Sports Surfaces

Company Background:

Labosport Ltd, based in Derbyshire, primarily carries out the assessment and testing of sport surfaces to evaluate and accredit their compliance with the play performance requirements of the governing bodies of sport and international standards.

The scope of assessment and testing covers all types of sports surfaces both natural and synthetic, indoors and outdoors, for a large range of sport specific applications, both in the laboratory at their premises and on site at locations around the world. Labosport Ltd are widely regarded as a world leading authority on sports surface technology and research, and have offices in other countries such as France, Italy, USA, Canada and China. The assessment of sports surfaces can broadly be categorised into four areas:

1. Player-Surface Interactions
2. Ball-Surface Interactions
3. Material Properties/Durability
4. Construction Quality (site based)

There exists a large array of component material tests and full system tests currently specified by the sports’ governing bodies and international standards organisations. Labosport Ltd plays a leading role in both the implementation and development of these tests and the associated standards. Whilst the scope and accuracy of these test methods have improved greatly during the past several years there are still many areas for which research is required to improve both understanding and relevance to the users/stakeholders.

Current state-of-the-art:

In the past 10-15 years there have been a large number of significant changes in aspects of sport surface design, manufacturing and standards/guidance from the governing bodies. In addition there is increasing pressure on these ‘products’ to comply with many standards re environmental impact, disposal, water use, and quality. In general, academic research regarding the science and understanding is lagging behind aspects of the sport surface industry practice. Where scientific knowledge is poorly understood the testing methods used for surface assessment is questionable. In addition the pressures on surfaces to comply with multi-sport requirements for community use are increasing.

In brief:
•Player-surface testing is simplistic and research from recent studies indicates it does not accurately simulate the player to surface contacts.
•Ball-surface testing is largely empirical and does not reflect in-game parameters.
•Material testing for durability is largely empirical and not always reflective of real-life conditions.
•These play performance related tests in particular are somewhat limited in value for R&D as they are restricted to pass/fail against set limits. Further evaluation and interpretation of the data is appropriate to improve understanding.

Furthermore, the sport surfacing industry is only recently exploiting suitable construction quality assessment techniques and there is much scope to develop and implement better guidance, including important aspects of sustainable construction regarding material selection and waste. There exists a general lack of understanding of value management in the sport surface industry, partly due to this niche market’s complex supply chain, lack of historical regulation, and propensity for conservatism. There is little scientific data to support cost-benefit modelling, or whole life asset appraisal, including the management of its usage and maintenance for the surface’s entire lifetime.

Aims and Objectives:

Aim

To improve understanding of the science and evaluation of sports surfaces through the development of novel test methods and associated assessment procedures. These improved test methods will enhance the effective assessment of the surface’s performance and safety characteristics and enhance Labosport’s position as the world leading test institute for sports surface evaluation.

Objectives
1.To evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the current portfolio of standard test methods and equipment used in the sports surface sector.
2.To enhance the company’s knowledge of the factors influencing the performance and longevity of sports surfaces from cradle to grave.
3.To enhance understanding of the ‘end user’ requirements of sports surfaces and appraise how “fit for purpose” the primary test methods are, and suggest areas for improvement/development.
4.To research and develop novel test methods to enhance the current provision for surface assessment, and establish appropriate limits of acceptability.
5.To disseminate the findings widely into industry practice and the sport governing bodies to improve the quality of surfaces and their evaluation.

Note: the company routinely test hundreds of products per year, and is well versed in aspects of 1, 3, 4 and 5 from an industry/commercial perspective. This EngD aims to specifically develop their business by expanding their research skills and capabilities through the collaboration with Loughborough University’s sports surfaces research group.

Proposed Research Design and Methods:

The work will comprise a mixture of theoretical and experimental research methods to enhance the scientific evaluation of sports surface systems from a wider range of perspectives than the current focus of pass/fail in relation to standards. In addition to mechanical testing aspects of qualitative assessment for design life, whole life cost models and product sustainability assessment may be explored as part of the research work. The company has capacity for equipment fabrication in-house in addition to a large array of standard and some non-standard test equipment. The company owns a large database of test results that immediately forms the basis for further detailed data analysis to produce a critique of current tests and methodologies prior to a development programme. It is anticipated that collecting user perspectives will comprise interaction with the University sporting squads and through the Company’s good relations with many clients/manufacturers who service elite facilities/squads in the UK and abroad. Dissemination of the findings can be delivered through the company’s many existing activities at trade seminars/fairs and through the usual academic channels.

Expected Benefits and Outcomes:

The benefits to the academic partner include the further development of knowledge and science within the sport surface research group, impact of its research into practice through both enhanced practice and equipment development, and further establishment of Loughborough as the leading research group in this field.

The benefits to the company include: strengthening and growing their technical core knowledge base and equipment portfolio; enhancing their business reputation as the leading sports surface test institute; and providing new opportunities for business partnerships with manufacturers/installers and new business in emerging associated surface related markets worldwide.