The Groundsman

January 2013

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the Groundsman January 2013 who are both very experienced grounds professionals and are indispensable in helping me maintain not only the pitch but also the car parks, trees and flower beds at this 28-acre site. Without their help, I wouldn't be able to do all things I do. Also, the whole RFU team who are so friendly and helpful. "Indeed, over the past decade I've found that the complete rugby experience from schoolboy level right through to International standard, is a completely enjoyable experience and it certainly reflects the RFU's Values that identify the principles of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship that are at the heart of IOG BEST PRACTICE 19 the game.Yes, rugby is a hard game (especially when the Spingboks are playing), but the attitude of the players and the crowds, too, is something else – at times it's almost a 'party' atmosphere here. "I felt a fantastic warmth towards me at the IOG Industry Awards, and I thank everyone for that. To collect three awards [the third, on behalf of Twickenham Stadium, for the IOG Governing Bodies' Professional Spectator Sports Ground of the Year – see panel, left] was overwhelming. "What a pleasure it was to be among such company at the awards, including the youngsters, and to a man everyone acted so professionally – that says so much for our industry. "I know lots of people and have lots of friends in this industry – many of them wonderful characters who I don't see enough of – and it's a tremendous business to be part of. "And I know we all think alike – that a pitch is 'our' pitch and we own every blade of grass. Every time I see the clip of David Beckham's wonderful free kick in stoppage time against Greece in a World Cup qualifier at Old Trafford in 2009, I can't help but focus on the large divot in view as the players gather around to celebrate. But, I guess, that's part and parcel of being a groundsman." l Desso pitch for Twickenham With the hosting of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in mind, and with it 27 events in six weeks (training sessions, games plus opening and closing ceremonies), it was clear that Twickenham's 50-year-old pitch would not stand up to such treatment, says Keith. Built on former allotment ground, Twickenham staged its first game in 1909. Pipe drainage was added in the '60s and the wet winter of 2000/01 spurred more remedial work – a four inch fibresand surface laid on top of new 5 m diagonal drains and 1 m sand slits. However, by 2009, it became clear that the drainage was insufficient (just 10 mm/hour) and the wear-andtear situation was compounded by the heavy toll of 50-55 games a year plus pop concerts. Keith and colleagues Ian and Andy set about investigating the solution, as part of the stadium's £76 million transformation. This started with visits to a number of grounds including Newcastle United, Glasgow Rangers, Llanelli Scarlets and the Aviva Stadium in Ireland to view their fibrelastic pitches and to discuss the pros and cons with the groundsmen. The trio then investigated the Desso pitches at Tottenham Hotspur, Wembley Stadium and Arsenal FC "which, at the time of our visits in May, looked like they do in August – they were immaculate", reflects Keith. "The key to a good rugby pitch is to have a pitch that retains a certain amount of moisture, so Desso was our choice." The construction of the new pitch, which sits on a new drainage plan drawn up by consultant John Hacker of PSD (who is also the RFU community consultant), was started by Mallinsons on 10 June 2012. "We played the first games on it on September 1 – a double header – and it played extremely well, then a week later we hosted concerts by Lady Gaga. The pitch recovered well, however (we took the grass off at the South end, where the stage was located and grew new grass from scratch from September 12 – lighting rigs are used) and it was ready for the next game in November." Pitch construction included the installation of undersoil heating, which is unconnected as yet. This will be remedied when the stadium's new energy centre is completed; a simple connection is all that will be required. Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions

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