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Fußball-Bundesliga: Die Rasenheizung als Klimasünder | Sport | DW


The lawn should be lush green on a Bundesliga match day, have a cutting height of between 25 and 28 millimeters and allow a ball rolling distance of four to eight meters. This is what the German Football League (DFL) wants in its specifications for “greenkeeping stadium lawns”. But how is that supposed to succeed in the cold months when the ground is frozen rock hard? The risk of injury is also very high on a lawn that is too hard.

The only thing that helps is lawn heating. The DFL also requires them to be installed – even as part of the licensing process – “to keep the lawns frost-free and thus ensure the same playing conditions”. According to the DFL, it should be noted that a standard heat output of 900 to 1,200 kilowatts must be ensured for the game.

Consumption per day is enough for one family house per year

The longtime Bundesliga manager Andreas Rettig did the math. According to Rettig, an oil-powered lawn heating consumes around 2,000 liters of heating oil a day: “That’s about as much as a single-family house in a whole year.” For him it is incomprehensible “when the lawn heating and the floodlights are running at full speed in winter”.

Rettig’s suggestion: changing the schedule to the calendar year, for example from March to December, in order to skip the energy-intensive months. In a representative survey by the opinion research institute YouGov, around 58 percent of Germans were in favor of an extended winter break. A good third of them even considered such a measure to be “definitely” necessary in order to reduce energy consumption, for example for floodlights and lawn heating.

For reasons of energy saving, the majority of Germans would like an extended Bundesliga winter break

In some countries, such as Sweden and Norway, the professional football season starts in March or April and ends in November. Play is suspended during the particularly cold season. In German football, on the other hand, as in many other European leagues, there are longer breaks in the summer and games are also played in the winter months. This winter, the long break from the World Cup suited the Bundesliga side quite well, but even after the league had started again, temperatures in Germany were still freezing in many places. And a World Cup in winter like last time in Qatar should remain the exception for the time being.

Freiburg heats with district heating, Hoffenheim with pellets

A few Bundesliga clubs are already relying on less climate-damaging alternatives. SC Freiburg is already covering all of the heating requirements of the new stadium, which was inaugurated in October 2021, including the undersoil heating, with district heating (waste heat from a neighboring industrial company), the club told DW.

The turf heating in the arena and a training ground at VfL Wolfsburg are also supplied with district heating from the return flow from the stadium heating. “All other lawn heating systems also use district heating, a waste product from local electricity generation,” the association explained when asked. “Regardless of this positive situation, we will check carefully whether there are training grounds that we do not have to use and heat in winter without jeopardizing our teams’ training and game operations.”

The German record champion FC Bayern Munich operates its lawn heating with an air heat pump, the energy requirements of which are largely covered by solar power. TSG Hoffenheim uses wood pellets to cover the heat requirements for its pitch heating. The turf heating in the arena in Leverkusen is linked to a weather station, which Bayer 04 said only needs to be used in specific cases.

In case of frost: Training only at noon

Borussia Mönchengladbach still heats with gas. And so CFO Stephan Schippers was still worried about a gas shortage at the end of 2022: “If the gas were really to be turned off, on a winter’s day when we couldn’t get the lawn to thaw, that could mean, for example, that no football would be played can,” said Schippers of the German Press Agency.

Without the use of undersoil heating, the pitch quickly becomes unplayable in winter

The club told DW that the lawn heating was only used to keep the areas free of frost, which reduced the hours of use. Borussia’s greenkeepers can control the turf heating individually and around the clock using a tool on their cell phone and precisely control the weather forecast and actual conditions (temperature in the turf). In addition, the professional team will only train at noon and not in the morning so that the lawn heating does not have to be turned on.

Environmental organizations call for the use of renewable energies

Many clubs are like Borussia Mönchengladbach that have not yet switched to renewable energies and can hardly raise the money for such an investment after the corona crisis. “The turf heating is really one of the biggest points where the clubs can still improve, because enormous amounts of energy are shot out,” Thomas Fischer from the German Environmental Aid told DW.

There are now good alternatives to the climate-damaging emissions from gas or oil. “Turf heating with heat pumps and also electric turf heating with regenerative energies are significantly more environmentally friendly systems.” However, Fischer advises against the use of pellet lawn heaters: “It makes no sense to cut down trees in order to then burn them to heat the football pitch and blow them up the chimney. Wood is a valuable raw material that also provides a habitat for many organisms offers.”

A look at England shows that the topic has a promising future. There the top game of the Women’s Super League between the women’s teams Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC was kicked off, although the pitch was frozen. The game was stopped after six minutes. Chelsea manager Emma Hayes then called for undersoil heating to be mandatory for games in the women’s top division as well.

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