The Groundsman

June 2014

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IOG BEST PRACTICE 17 the Groundsman June 2014 Visit for more information and digital editions natural surfaces – there's nothing better than standing back and admiring the 'finished' product – and it costs a lot less to maintain a natural surface, probably around £2,000 compared to £4,500 a year for the 3G." Interestingly, the other One Leisure group sites that have artificial surfaces (sand-dressed and 3G MUGA) use their in-house 'leisure assistants' to maintain the surfaces by brushing and litter picking. The 3G carpet (60mm Domo) at St Ives was laid onto a tarmac base; topped with kiln-dried sand at the base plus rubber crumb infill. "With the 3G, I've learned that for every 10 hours of play, the pitch needs one hour of maintenance, which includes regular brushing (two/three times a week)," says Rob. He uses a variety of Technical Service's RED equipment to keep the surface in order – including a Flexibrush to sweep the pile, tines to 'vigorously' get into the pile to relieve compaction, a rubber mat that enables levels to be correctly maintained and a sweeper that attaches to a Countax tractor. In addition, specialist artificial surface maintenance contractor, Technical Services, visits four times a year to perform a power sweep. Regular brushing (in the direction of the seams) is complemented by a regime that includes a weekly schedule of checking infill levels especially around corner arcs, penalty spots and goalmouths, topping up if necessary, plus the inspection of fencing for loose nuts and bolts which can result from balls continually hitting the fence. There are also regular weed inspections, particularly on the pitch perimeter where machinery can't reach. "If you look after the surface, it will look after you," Rob adds, "and that includes the banning of bladed boots which do untold damage to the carpet. Three years after its installation, the pile is still reading 60mm and rubber crumb levels are like new," he says. The result is that the surface is heavily used: primarily by St Ives Rangers (20 teams, including veterans and a disability squad), Needingworth Colts and Hemingford Colts, while any available time slots are taken up by private bookings. In total, the surface is usually used 60-70 hours a week, up until 10pm most days. The 3G surface regularly hosts games for Cambridge United and has seen Ipswich Town and Leyton Orient play there in recent months. From retail to industry-wide recognition A keen sportsman (cricket in his younger days and bowls – still bowls today, indoor and outdoor), in 2001 Rob realised that a career in retail wasn't for him and he joined the local council grounds team. "My first job was to mark out a football pitch, which took me four hours – I was thrown in at the deep end, but it is the best way to learn," he says. During his spell there he also helped maintain a number of green areas, including parks and housing estates. In the following years his desire for work experience "to see how the professionals did it" saw him spend time at Arsenal FC's training ground and at Southampton FC, and his quest to pass on that knowledge at local community sports level also saw him popping into Huntingdon Town FC and St Neots Town FC, winning Groundsman of the Year in 2006 in the bargain. More recently he joined the matchday staff at Wembley Stadium. He points out that industry must realise that there is a large swathe of volunteers preparing sports surfaces and that their efforts are not generally recognised. "But if they didn't put that work in we wouldn't have the level of sport we do," he says. He moved to One Leisure's St Ives site in 2010, initially working voluntarily at weekends for six months "to see how things were done". When the site's head groundsman's position came up, he applied and during his first 12 months there won Employee of the Year then the local Unsung Hero award. He's a keen advocate of training, having undergone the IOG synthetic and winter pitches courses plus a five- day cricket course (to Management level) as well as being accredited (online via the IOG) to NVQ Level 2 in Sports Turf Science. Rob Bradshaw: "Being council-run we have to keep a tight rein on costs" t

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