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Editorial comment

This year is set to be a big one for sports. In 2020, many major sporting events, such as the Olympics and UEFA European Football Championship, had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with vaccines being steadily rolled out across the globe, and alterations in safety practices being put in place for 2021 events, such as the Super Bowl and Six Nations Rugby, it seems likely these postponements will manage to take place this year.

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International sporting events are particularly big business. But once the games begin, it is easy to forget that a whole host of industries are involved to make these events possible. For example, the oil and gas industry often fuel these events from start to finish – flying teams, personnel, equipment etc. in, powering stadiums and, of course, televisions, so that millions can watch from home. Petrochemicals and chemicals are used to make the synthetic materials for each team’s kit: gloves, shin pads and shirts. The construction industry builds the stadiums for these events to take place. And you only have to watch a match/game for 30 seconds to realise how much sponsorship each event receives: from the players’ clothes to the banners wrapped around the stadium. In the 2018 football World Cup even the referees’ watches were a sponsorship deal, provided by Hublot.

However, one industry that is often overlooked at sporting events is the fertilizer industry. The fertilizer industry is often thought of as synonymous with the farming industry, helping to feed the world’s continuously growing population. And while that in itself is a noble goal, that is not all the fertilizer industry is involved in.

If sporting events want to have a beautiful game, then they need to have beautiful and well cared for grounds. Football pitches and golf courses, for example, need to be well cared for in order for the grass to maintain a healthy state. However, this is a careful balance. Too little or no fertilizer can lead to weak turf that recovers slowly from wear. However, if too much is used (particularly nitrogen fertilizer), the turf can be damaged easily and have poor wear tolerance.

Having an excellent pitch is not only an aesthetic investment, but a practical one. Muddy, worn, or dusty pitches in football make it harder for players to run, pass, and dodge the opposing team. In golf, an overgrown or muddy course seriously affects a golfer’s ability. Across the board, poorly managed sporting grounds negatively affect both the quality and the enjoyment of the game. Thus the fertilizer industry is a major component of the sporting world, even if it isn’t always recognised as such.

2021 is already looking so much brighter than 2020, and sporting fixtures being reinstated is just one of the reasons to celebrate the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic. As the year progresses, let us hope for a speedy dispersal of vaccines, and increasing growth within the fertilizer industry.