The Groundsman

May 2014

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COMMENT 3 the Groundsman May 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions rassroots sport, and especially football, relies heavily on our many parks. The revenues from charges for the use of the pitches are a significant contributor to the park's economic profile, yet in many cases the quality of the grass surfaces is shocking - but charges continue to increase as local authorities face continued pressure to raise income. Without any statutory obligation to the quality of these pitches, standards vary. So, where are we heading? The 2013 report 'Local authority sport and recreation services in England: What next?' by the Association for Public Sector Excellence (APSE) shows that sport and recreation has been undervalued in many local authorities. The report highlights the urgent need to take a proactive approach and make an evidence-based business case for future provision of sport and recreation services in a tough financial climate. APSE's chief executive, Paul O'Brien, said: "The London Olympics rightly celebrated magnificent sporting achievements, but funding for everyday sport and recreation for the UK's general population is receding. Sport and recreation was regarded as a 'Cinderella service' long before budget cuts hit. These services have a vital role in ensuring health and well-being, social cohesion and local economic resilience. Sport and recreation services that take a proactive approach in defining services around the emerging health agenda, seeking new opportunities and ensuring they are fulfilling the authority's core values will be best prepared for current and future financial challenges." A further APSE survey - 'Parks: the state of the market' – asked whether during the past two years councils transferred any parks assets to self-management and 27.3 per cent of respondents answered yes - an increase of 10 per cent compared to the 2012 survey. Additionally, 23.9 per cent said their council is looking at this option. Of those who answered yes, 47.6 per cent had asset transferred playing fields. This has important repercussions for sport in parks, the quality of surfaces and the knowledge of those responsible for the management of the playing surfaces. Our new Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme and its Regional Pitch Advisor network will undoubtedly uncover both good and bad practice, and will offer good turf management guidance to many beleaguered local authorities and community groups, as well as volunteers. It is important, though, that the programme 'connects and collaborates' to turn investment around and we are proud that our new partnership with the sports governing bodies is at least a start in highlighting what can and should be done. If the programme can also demonstrate how good turf management practice can increase playing time on the thousands of grass pitches across the country, and thus enable more participants to play more regularly, then that will also be a significant step forward and, in turn, generate economic, social and health benefits, too. Geoff Webb, Chief Executive, The Institute of Groundsmanship Park life… G Our new Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme and its Regional Pitch Advisor network will undoubtedly uncover both good and bad practice, and will offer good turf management guidance to many beleaguered local authorities and community groups, as well as volunteers " " Contributors Karen Maxwell Managing editor Colin Hoskins Features editor John Moverley Amenity Forum chair Paul Groves Product editor

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