The Groundsman

December 2013

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the Groundsman December 2013 INDUSTRY PROFILE 29 Keeping the Ricoh Arena ready for action Karen Maxwell talks to John Ledwidge about his grounds management role at the Ricoh Arena pre and post Coventry City FC's tenancy at the venue By: Karen Maxwell Q How long have you worked at the Ricoh Arena and how did you get started in groundsmanship? My groundscare career started as a chubby 13-year-old, once I realised that is was unlikely I'd become a professional footballer. I volunteered at Coventry City FC's old stadium Highfield Road whenever I could – literally stalking then head groundsman Joe Forster. After working through my apprenticeship and advanced apprenticeship at the club, I was promoted to deputy head groundsman, at the age of 19, with responsibilities of the day-to-day management of the club's training facility, budgeting and staff management and training I then moved to Aston Villa FC's new £23m training facility, where I spent 14 fantastic months learning from, arguably one of the best grounds managers in Europe, Jonathan Calderwood. When the opportunity arose to return to my beloved 'Sky Blues' as head groundsman I felt it was an opportunity too good to miss. Q What did your role entail when Coventry City FC (CCFC) was resident at the Arena? I was responsible for the management and organisation of the club's activities - from training to match-day preparation to budget control. While our other pitches under the club's control were based on two separate sites some six and 11 miles away from the stadium, communication with staff and site visits was essential to ensure that standards were kept high. The staff and health and safety requirements were my responsibility and I maintained a working relationship with the stadium management company Arena Coventry Ltd to help deliver events during the close season to generated revenue without compromising the playing surface for the football clubs' return in August. In 2012, part of this role was to help deliver a concert in the same year we hosted 12 Olympic football matches with a seven week and four-day turnaround. weekly basis, the academy has returned as contracted tenants and we have significantly improved the standard of the playing surface at the site. With only two members of staff and myself we are working harder than ever to accommodate all of the CCFC academy requirements across five natural grass pitches and 12,000 sq m of 3G surface and meet our clients' needs. My role has now developed to that of building relationships with prospective and current clients to ensure we can accommodate and meet these needs and ensure the revenue raised is offsets agaisnt my costs. This role has enabled me to develop my business skills and knowing that the 'product' I produce will have a direct impact on the profit and loss of the company. So it's definitely more than just cutting grass. l Q How has your role changed since Coventry City FC moved out? Part of my new remit when I moved from the football club to working for the Arena Company, was to oversee and deliver two concerts and ensure the playing surface was ready for the start of the season. The former CCFC Academy site came under my remit. Having sat untouched after CCFC's departure three months previously, grass that sat at some 23 inches high had to be managed down to once again accommodate football at a local standard. After securing six local teams to play on a Visit for more information and digital editions

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