Football fields composed of natural grass must maintain a playable state throughout the season. Substructure problems such as inadequacies in drainage and irrigation systems may adversely affect a player's health and game quality in rainy and/or dry seasons. The scope of the study encompasses eight football fields, which have natural turf combined with semi- or fully automatic sprinkler systems, with permission given for study in Istanbul. Irrigation systems, infiltration rate, surface hardness, turf coverage and root penetration parameters were investigated on these playing fields. The results were evaluated according to FIFA, UEFA, TFF and other national and international standards. Our findings showed that none of the sprinkler systems of these football fields could meet the minimum Christiansen's coefficient of uniformity ratio (84%). Only one of the sprinkler systems of the stadiums had a fair rating according to a distribution uniformity ratio. All fields, except for one, had low (<100 mm h(-1)) infiltration rates for first-class grounds. Cover percentages of the lawns were at desirable levels except for one stadium, which had excessive weed problems. Generally, root depths (<15 cm) and plant densities (5-15) were poor in the fields. Surface hardness was high (107 G-max) in one stadium, normal in another stadium (72 G-max) and low (< 70 G-max) in the rest. (c) 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.