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5-a-side football artificial grass

Pitch Pointer: 5-a-sides and 7-a-sides

Factors to consider when developing a new Five or Seven-a-side Facility

Small sided football is now the most popular and fastest growing area of adult football. With over 1.5m adults playing small sided football every week and 30,000 teams playing in organised and competitive small sided leagues, it’s not surprising that many new facilities are being developed to accommodate these. Whether you are looking to construct a large custom built facility with multiple pitches, or split an existing full size facility into smaller pitches, there are many factors to consider:


3rd generation (3G) artificial grass surfaces are ideal. Specifically designed for football usage, 3G surfaces have a look and feel of natural grass and meet the appropriate performance requirements. They are infilled with both sand and rubber granules. Our in-house UK manufactured SoccerTurf range offers a perfect surface solution for five and seven a side facilities. Our SoccerTurf 60M surface has proved a popular choice as this can be installed direct on to blinded stone, tarmacadam or concrete base without the need to install a rubber shockpad. Furthermore this surface has been subjected to enhanced durability tests to confirm it is able to withstand the intense usage associated with these type of facilities.


When carrying out works to an indoor facility, having a suitable level base on which to install the 3G surface is vital. This base may be a tarmacadam surface, concrete floor or even blinded stone. If the facility is an existing concrete floor, for example from an old warehouse, it may be possible to apply a floor screed in order to ensure the floor is suitably level. An unrestricted access door/opening is required at least 3m wide by 2m high to allow access for the required machinery. During the construction works the indoor area should be well lit and suitably ventilated.


A broad spectrum of dimensions are acceptable for small sided football facilities, however typically most pitches are 25-50m long by 16.5-35m wide. A 2:1 ratio of length to width is generally recommended. 


Rigid panel weldmesh fencing is most ideal due to its durability. The lower section of the fenceline should have rebound capabilities to enable play to be ‘off the fenceline’. This can be achieved either with solid timber rebound boards or a rebound weldmesh panel. The rebound section is often increased in height behind the goal areas where there is most ball-to-fence impact. Gates should always open outwards so that play is not interrupted & open gates do not cause a health and safety risk.

In terms of floodlighting a minimum of 120 lux is recommended and fence-mounted systems again maximise use of space. Roof netting is also a good idea to prevent balls passing from one court to another (and to offer protection to the roof of an indoor facility).

Line markings are normally permanently inlaid into the carpet rather than painted on. The prevents the issue of faded painted lines (and the cost of having to re-apply markings).


This obviously depends upon the size of planned facility, performance levels required and the existing ground conditions and/or facilities present. However, generally new outdoor 5-a-side facilities cost in the region of £140,000 - £180,000 (based on a 3 court facility) and indoor facilities cost in the region of £40,000 – £90,000 (again based on a 3 court facility).

Funding is available from many external sources such as the Football Foundation and Sport England. Thornton Sports also offer a payment options scheme which allows customers to pay for their new facility on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. In many cases where facilities are hired out, the rental incomes are likely to cover or even exceed the instalments! To find out more click here.


It’s a common misconception that artificial grass surfaces don’t require maintenance. Whilst the maintenance requirements aren’t as onerous as those for natural grass pitches, it is still advisable to follow recommended maintenance regimes. The regular maintenance operations for a 3G surface include brushing the surface ideally each week to decompact the rubber infill, lift the synthetic grass fibres and redistribute the infill.

Appropriate maintenance not only ensures surfaces continue to meet performance requirements, but it also extends the expected lifespan of a facility and hence return on investment. A lack of maintenance could also invalidate the surface manufacturer’s warranty.

Following all facility installations, Thornton Sports provide valuable guidance on surface maintenance and offer free basic training for in-house ground staff. These maintenance procedures can then be complemented by less frequent, specialist procedures, undertaken by a surface maintenance company such as Protech AllWeather.

Generally, for an intensively used 5/7-s-side facility, an 8-10 year lifespan can be achieved with a SoccerTurf surface if the recommended maintenance regime is fully adopted.


Thornton Sports install 20-30 artificial grass sports pitches every year. One of our most recent examples of a small-sided football facility is at Nottingham Football Centre. Former artificial grass sports facilities which had fallen into a state of disrepair, were resurfaced with our SoccerTurf 3G surfaces to provide the versatility of one full-size facility and up to 6 separate 5-a-side areas. These facilities are now used during school hours by Rushcliffe School and also hired out during the evenings/weekends.

A 5-a-side sports pitch has also recently been installed at the Lancashire FA’s County Ground. Thornton Sports manufactured and installed a tailored SoccerTurf 40M surface with an increased yarn content, to meet the clients exact specification and make the facility particularly ideal for 5-a-side football.

For a list of similar 3G surfaces recently installed across the UK see our SoccerTurf reference list. Site visits can be arranged, to take a closer look at these high performance sports pitches, by calling 01282 7577 34 or emailing

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