The Groundsman

August 2012

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12 FEATURE the Groundsman August 2012 Eastern promise and Turkish delight The climatic extremes in Eastern European make football pitch construction and maintenance a tough challenge – but one contractor is mobilising forces across the Continent to deliver projects on time and to budget Turf installation at the Galatasaray Turk Telecom Arena Stadium, Istanbul The Euro 2012 football championships marked a watershed for the sport, allowing the competition to be staged in Eastern Europe for the first time since the event's inception in 1960. The profile of the region's footballing nations has risen dramatically over the last 20 years in a wave of emerging sophistication and the willingness of national governing bodies to invest in cutting edge stadia and pitches. And Eastern European nations are turning increasingly to British expertise to deliver the best quality natural and synthetic surfaces. Two years ago, natural and synthetic turf manufacturer and contractor Support in Sport (SIS) set up SIS Eastern Europe (SIS EE) in Ankara, after integrating the Turkish-based sports construction company Ilmek Insaat. SIS had completed projects in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan but recognised the need for a permanent base in Eastern Europe to deliver cost-effective solutions and local knowledge from a regional office that's at most only a three-hour flight away from targeted countries. Major contracts to install pitches at top venues soon followed. "There's been an explosion of demand in Eastern Europe," explains Ilyas Kobal, Managing Director of SIS EE. "We have been busy with projects across the territory, managing them with a regional team that commands wide experience in the countries in question." SIS EE hit the ground running with contracts set up with major football clubs in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Georgia for 2011. "Eastern Europe is always a difficult market as it requires plenty of local understanding and knowledge, which is why we chose Ankara as a conveniently located base for us," he explains. Eastern European countries are anxious to land key FIFA tournaments such as the World Cup or European Championships, with both FIFA and UEFA encouraging Eastern states to improve facilities and build new revenue streams as well as raise the profile of the major football leagues.

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