By Pádraig Hoare
There will be a significant Irish on-field presence at this summer’s World Cup in Russia with a Sligo-owned firm selected to install six of the 12 pitches used at the tournament, including the final.
SIS Pitches was selected to design, construct and install six pitches, including the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which will host the opening game and the final.
It is the first time a World Cup final has ever been played on anything but all-natural grass, after former Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke outlined plans in 2014 for a men’s final to be played on a synthetic pitch “sooner rather than later”.
SIS Pitches, which was set up in 2001 by chief executive George Mullan who directs the company from Sligo, lay grass and synthetic pitches and sports surfaces at some of the biggest stadiums around the world.
Russian organisers say the Luzhniki Stadium will be the most advanced in World Cup history with the use of the company’s reinforced natural turf system called SISGrass.
Mr Mullan said: “SISGrass was only launched in 2015 and already it has been installed at a number of world-class stadiums and now the 2018 World Cup Final will be played on it.
The quality of SISGrass will ensure the pitches are resilient.”
Other stadia pitches that will be laid by SIS include the 45,000-seater and home of Spartak Moscow, Otkritie Arena, and the 45,000-seater Rostov Arena which will host five World Cup games including Brazil’s opener against Switzerland.