The Groundsman

November 2013

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24 GRASSROOTS the Groundsman November 2013 Pitch perfect at the Palace Colin Hoskins reports on the pitch preparation, by Wembley groundsmen, for the recent football game at Buckingham Palace, and volunteer groundsmen awards, organised as part of The FA's 150-year anniversary celebrations By: Colin Hoskins roundscare teams who saw the media coverage of the football game held last month at Buckingham Palace no doubt applauded the efforts of Wembley Stadium's grounds manager and Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) member Tony Stones, who worked closely with the royal household gardeners to create a pitch in the 39-acre garden. The game, staged as part of The Football Association's (FA) 150 anniversary celebrations, recognised the commitment of the estimated 400,000-strong army of volunteers who dedicate hours to grassroots football throughout the UK. The Duke of Cambridge, president of The FA, helped arrange the Southern Amateur League fixture between Polytechnic FC (established in 1875) and Civil Service FC, the only surviving club from the 11 which founded The FA in 1863. Around 200 spectators attended the event on an invitation-only basis, G which is around 10 times the average attendance for either of the clubs. The Duke hosted the event and presented medals to 150 grassroots volunteers in recognition of their dedication. The recipients were chosen for their outstanding contribution to football and the awards acknowledged the dedication of groundsmen as well as contributions to the development of the women's game, providing opportunities for disabled players and refereeing, for example. Her Majesty the Queen was not present at the event, as The Duke commented: "Her Majesty, who has been the proud patron of The FA for 61 years, sends her regrets that she cannot join you today. The one small silver lining to Her Majesty not being present is that there shouldn't be any corgis running on to the pitch." Palace pitch preparation Tony Stones says the intention from the outset was to replicate as much as Visit for more information and digital editions possible Wembley's Desso playing surface – albeit on a 100m by 60m sward that is a mixture of rye, bents and fescues, plus the odd patch or two of chamomile - including the creation of a criss-cross pattern in the turf. The lawn had already been seeded in parts to repair wear and tear following a busy summer of activities, from garden parties to staging the Coronation Festival. Having inspected the site, Tony commented: "This will be fine to play football on; it's in good shape. The grass is normally cut to a height of 19mm but we increased it to 26mm to give the lawn some protection." In the build up to the game, palace gardeners aerated the pitch then mowed it three times a week, making the final cut 24 hours before kick-off, as well as giving the turf two treatments of fertiliser 'to green it up'. Portable goals were used, to avoid too much disruption to the lawn, and the players were asked to use studs that were shorter than usual.

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