The Groundsman

January 2013

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18 IOG BEST PRACTICE "We've never had a cancellation here due to a bad pitch, and I only lost one game at Old Trafford due to the weather." The gospel according to Keith Kent appears to be well received at grassroots; "the feedback I get pays me in spades", he says. "It's great to be part of the RFU's bigger picture," he adds, "and as well as visiting the grounds we often stage seminars (which are also attended by football groundsmen) and sometimes we can have more than 60 delegates at these evening events." A self-confessed fan of sand and aeration for maintaining pristine playing surfaces, Keith says his obsession with sand and slitting began in the late 1970s after John Souter of Stirling "taught me the basics [about light and wind as well as sand and aeration] and he became my mentor". He continues: "I joined Manchester United in 1987 and John was the club's consultant (based on his success at Aberdeen, also with Sir Alex Ferguson), and he continued until his retirement as my consultant at Old Trafford, which was my first all-seater 'enclosed' stadium. I learned a lot there." It wasn't until 1999, when he was drafting the advertisement for an assistant head groundsman at Old the Groundsman January 2013 Trafford (a post subsequently filled by Keith Porter now of Leigh Sports Village and, indeed, the 2012 winner of the IOG Everris/Syngenta Professional Rugby League Groundsman of the Year Award) that Keith realised that, based on the job spec he had just drawn up, he himself wouldn't qualify for the position. He decided it was time to do something about that, and embarked on a distance learning programme for accreditation which equated to the IOG's Professional Diploma in Groundsmanship at Intermediate and Diploma Levels. Industry camaraderie "That process was a far cry from the college day release course I completed while at Leicester – a course I really didn't enjoy, due to various reasons. But things were so much different then; those were the days when I would roll a goalmouth with a wooden roller, walking on tiptoes so as to not leave any footprints. "There's always been a great camaraderie in this industry; and it begins with my team here at Twickenham - my assistant head groundsman Ian Ayling (the best deputy anyone could have) and groundsman Andy Muir, Installing Twickenhams new pitch Award-winning Twickers Since the Twickenham Stadium ground was bought by the RFU in 1907, it has gone through a number of redevelopments in terms of stands and seating capacity, to the extent that, in 1995, it held 75,000 people in an allseater environment. Planning permission was received in 2004 for a new South Stand to raise capacity to 82,000, together with a hotel and conference centre, with redevelopment commencing in June 2005. As a result, Twickenham is now described as the most advanced rugby ground in Europe. Included in the stadium attributes is an environmental agenda that focuses on improving energy efficiency, and resource and waste management performance. In addition, there are plans to introduce high-density Wi-Fi for increased communication with supporters via social media on match days, as well as new TV screens in all concourses for unique content before, during and post match. Mid-tier LED screens were installed, making Twickenham the first stadium outside of America to use this technology. The 2012 IOG Governing Bodies' Professional Spectator Sports Ground of the Year Award was sponsored by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the Football Association, the Football Foundation, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Premier League, the Rugby Football League, the Rugby Football Union and Sport England Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions The 27ft tall bronze sculpture greets visitors

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