The Groundsman

March 2014

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been a better mentor", Jason adds) at the Headingley cricket ground, when the grounds team there managed both the rugby and the Test cricket pitches, after a career as a professional cricketer with Yorkshire CCC as a batsman and right arm medium pace bowler. Originally laid in 1890, the Carnegie pitch had its top layer removed in the 1960s for the installation of undersoil heating – which was eventually switched off due to problems with a baked top layer that would not allow adequate drainage. The effect was that water would sit in a four inch top 'pan'. "So, we disconnected the electric undersoil heating system and vertidrained through the pan and researched the use of waterproof covers," Jason says, "and we eventually sourced these from America (at an eighth of the cost of equivalent ones from the UK). This system saved at least 15 fixtures in the first season. "It was not an ideal situation and after the go-ahead for the new pitch (in 2012) we set about devising a business plan for a project that would cost £1m," says Jason. "Our investigations showed that a synthetic surface would come out on top in terms of business reasoning alone but following consultations with our players, the team doctor and the physio, it was immediately clear that a reinforced natural turf pitch was the much-preferred route." As a result, a Fibreturf pitch, from Fibresand International, was specified, along with new drainage, undersoil heating and irrigation systems. Thereafter, he says, it was a case of constant attention to detail, working closely with the construction engineer (Caddick Construction) and with the pitch contractor (CRL). "Indeed, the new pitch now holds up much better to scrums than originally and it is quick draining with quite impressive perculation rates." Ryan adds: "It took just 46 days from first dig to the last piece of turf being laid; a very short timescale but one we are used to here – our renovation window this year, for example, will be just 27 days due to the numerous demands on the pitch, which will include staging the Europe's Strongest Man competition." Ryan's expanding role Ryan's promotion to head groundsman is suitable recognition and reward for the role he has played at the club since joining from school in 2002 as a "16-year-old with a lot of typical teenage exuberance which, thanks to Jason, has been channelled into something useful", he reflects. "As assistant head groundsman, I've been working hand in glove with Jason – and very closely with the head coaches and coaching staff – to ensure that sporting timetables are maintained at both the stadium and the training ground, as well as monitoring the structural and playing performance of the pitches and training areas," he says. "Going forwards with the new pitch – which for me was a massive journey in groundsmanship – means reacting to a constantly evolving situation. For example, we have recently established initiatives with Everris and agronomist Tim Colclough (TGMS) to evaluate products and procedures for the ongoing development of our turf management regimes. Also, I'm hoping to further develop the training ground with improvements to the main pitches plus, hopefully, install automatic irrigation there." "I have been given fantastic support by the club's board of directors along with the staff, coaches and players. It has been a dream job and I thank everyone for their support. I will remain a good friend of the club and my new role will see me return from time to time, which is great. "Ryan was recently named the best young groundsman in the country, across all sports, which shows the calibre of the team we have in place." As for Ryan, he says: "I had no hesitation in accepting the post. Leeds Rugby is a great club with great people – they care about the staff and they listen to our views. Of course, the new role will involve me in more administration and man- management, but I will still have to be very conscious of the pitches in my charge." New Fibreturf pitch The new pitch at the stadium was sorely needed, says Jason, whose role as head groundsman saw him with overall responsibility for the development, management and maintenance of all the club's rugby playing surfaces. He joined the Leeds Rugby team following a spell with Keith Boyce ("nobody could have My favourite film: Gladiator My ideal holiday destination: Las Vegas / Knaresborough My interests outside of work: Any sport and walking in the hills. My ideal car: Audi R8 Who I most admire in, or out, of the industry and why: Anybody who pushes boundaries The best piece of advice I can give to young IOG members: Keep going. Facts and Favourites i t Jason Booth (left) and Ryan Golding acknowledge the spectators' applause for their IOG Awards IOG BEST PRACTICE 15 the Groundsman March 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions

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