The Groundsman

July 2015

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26 the Groundsman July 2015 n addition to a life-long interest in sport, Steve Winterburn studied over a four-year period at Plumpton Horticultural college where he gained an interest in the creative science behind how grass grows and what is required to identify and introduce flexible programmes that match the plant's needs and the climatic conditions under which it is growing. He spent 15 years involved in civil engineering, golf course and landscaping work and some consulting – a period he believes gave him a wide range of skills and a level of understanding when working on different grass surfaces and their management needs. Prior to joining Brighton and Hove Albion FC, Steve was head groundsman at the club's training ground pitches based and hired from the University of Sussex sports ground. On joining the club, Steve became head groundsman based at Withdean Stadium in Brighton, a multi sports and athletics ground rented from the local council after the club left its Goldstone ground. He was there for 10 years before moving in 2011 to the then new American Express Community Stadium. Lancing sports facilities Construction of the club's new training ground started in 2012 on a 20-hectare greenfield site in Lancing. This complex includes training and teaching facilities I Realising the potential Richard speaks to Steve Winterburn who outlines how he and his team at Brighton and Hove Albion FC consistently present high-class playing surfaces at the club's Amex stadium and training complex By: Richard Fry designed to meet the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan. The facility has 10 natural turf pitches; seven full-size and three are three-quarters size. Two are built using fibre elastic sand and are replicas of the main stadium pitch. Steve says: "It's important that when the first team comes to train, the players 'feel' the same surface conditions as when they play in the main stadium. The same bounce, the same give in the ground, the same run of the ball." In addition to the natural turf pitches, the training complex has a trio of 3G pitches; two for the academy and a community pitch. There is also a three- quarter size indoor pitch featuring a 45mm monofilament pile with an incorporated rubber crumb. This indoor facility ensures there will always be a pitch accessible and playable, regardless of the weather. Ready to renovate When the season comes to an end in May, Steve and his team of 14 are ready to get to work renovating both the main stadium and the training ground pitches for the next season. Before this happens, the stadium is hired out for commercial/corporate events. A day is also set aside for the academy teams to play matches and the Sussex County FA to play its Sussex senior cup final. At the end May, renovation starts and the stadium team has an eight-week window before the start of the next season. (The team is also responsible for associated landscaping at the stadium.) The stadium's rootzone is tested and, if required, the fibre elastic surface is reinstated to full specification. During the renovation works, an R14 seed mix is sown to make up part of the grass sward composition. "We get a rapid germination with R14," says Steve "and this is followed by good strong root growth, sward density and excellent colour." Like most modern stadia, shade is an issue. "Despite a seemingly translucent roof we have to provide supplementary lighting," Steve continues. "We usually start in early October on the west side of the pitch and by mid-December, when all the pitch is in shade, we apply lighting to Steve Winterburn (right) and Rigby Taylor's Mike Ring discuss pitch quality

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