The Groundsman

February 2015

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COMMENT 3 the Groundsman February 2015 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions ambridge United groundsman Ian Darler, ahead of the team's magnificent 0-0 draw with Manchester United in the recent FA Cup tie, demonstrated the dedication of groundsmen for whom the role isn't just a job but a passion by revealing how he's spent £30,000 of his own money on pitch equipment over the years (see interview on page 14). People like Ian make this industry stand out, albeit often in the shadows, but nonetheless they are a vital part of sport. I just hope the Football League take this into account when they meet in the summer to debate the rule change for synthetic turf. How many Ians are they prepared to lose? Indeed, the upsets of the fourth round of the FA Cup were all played on good quality surfaces maintained and managed by teams of groundsmen around the country. Chelsea could not blame the pitch; especially given it is a newly installed Desso GrassMaster system. Manager Mourinhio at least was honest in his assessment, citing embarrassment and disgrace at the players' failure to overcome Bradford City and congratulating Bradford's players, rather than finding any excuse for blame. It was also a pleasant surprise to hear the Cambridge United manager Richard Money defending Ian after the game following Louis van Gaal's criticism of the pitch. The Manchester United manager was widely quoted as saying: "We have to come here, the pitch isn't so good, that can influence that you can play in another style." But Money's response was: "We don't have the money to spend on the pitch to make it as good as it is at Old Trafford or anywhere else. The groundsman did a fantastic job to keep it in the condition it was." No doubt Old Trafford is a fantastic pitch but it is all relative and Ian deserves praise not criticism from opposing managers. Surely both teams had the same conditions? Or are standards so high now in the upper echelons of the game that we have made a rod for our own back when simply the administration of lower league clubs don't invest or even take time to learn more about managing and maintaining turf pitches? I recently had the privilege of being invited to the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) annual event, held this year in Denver, Colorado, USA which combines education and learning, exhibition, awards and site visits. Interestingly I met several grounds managers from the Major League Soccer clubs, all doing a great job in a league played predominantly on turf pitches. However, there seems to be a lack of any structure for league personnel when communicating issues from the ground up. Credit here at least to the FA Premier League which has, for several years, engaged with the ground staff and are proactively working together with the IOG to improve communication with administrators so surfaces can be improved year on year for the players – highlighting the fact that our links with sports leagues in the UK are actually pretty good. An STMA seminar regarding professional soccer in the USA ended up more as an advisory session from the audience - many of whom have experience of UK groundsmanship – who were able to pass on some advice to assist this group going forwards. The magic of the FA Cup remains, if Cambridge beat Manchester United at Old Trafford I am sure the press (especially talkSPORT's Mark Saggers - a lifelong Cambridge United fan) will be interested in Mr Van Gaal's post match comments - what's for sure the result won't be down to the pitch. Geoff Webb, Chief Executive, The Institute of Groundsmanship Honest, hard working, dedicated and out of pocket C People like Ian make this industry stand out, albeit often only in the shadows, but nonetheless they are a vital part of sport " " Contributors Karen Maxwell Managing editor Colin Hoskins Features editor John Moverley Chair of the Amenity Forum Christopher Bassett Managing director, Fusion Media Chris Gray IOG head of education and training

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