The Groundsman

November 2015

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IOG STRATEGY 17 the Groundsman November 2015 Visit for more information and digital editions Underpinned by the theme of 'Embracing new trends and developments to develop and train skilled groundsmen – whatever the playing surface', the strategy is based on a vision of encouraging continual improvements in grounds management and better quality playing surfaces – at every level, from grassroots upwards. "The aim, especially at grassroots level, is to show that planned turf maintenance can generate at least 'one more game per pitch' by increasing carrying capacity," says IOG chief executive Geoff Webb. "That will be achieved not only by representing, inspiring and supporting grounds management volunteers and professionals alike, but also by the IOG's continued progress in promoting best practice and continuing our quest to influence policy." While he admits that some of these themes are being carried over from the IOG's previous Challenging Perceptions strategy, he counters that they continue to be worthy goals. And who would argue that the IOG has not made great strides in these respects? The IOG has established successful partnerships and working relationships with a myriad of industry-focused organisations, including sports governing bodies and the Premier League (every member of every grounds team at every Premier League club is an IOG member), as well as with industry 'voices' such as the Amenity Forum and The Parks Alliance. Geoff is a board member of the Alliance and actively champions the importance of employing skilled groundsmen at every local authority site/ park. In addition, the IOG has this year also been involved in the Government's consultation (for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) to help shape a new cross-departmental strategy for sport. So, it is clear that the IOG has made great strides in promoting public-wide recognition of the industry. "Crucially," says Geoff, "a major pillar of the 'Ground Up' vision is the introduction of a multi-layer Pitch Grading System, beginning at grassroots level and extending through to the world- class surfaces that we see at the likes of Wimbledon, Twickenham, Lord's and at Premier League clubs. Each level will be complemented by a training and education framework that will comprise specific and 'accurately blended' modules (most of which can be delivered online) that suit the needs of each site (at each level of 'standard') as well as being perfectly matched to the needs of the person/ people charged with maintaining those sites. The fact is, with no benchmarks how do you realistically judge standards in the first place? It is felt that such a framework is required to bring much needed clarity of understanding of what constitutes good management and standard of provision. "There is no statutory provision for natural playing surfaces, but an agreed Pitch Grading System will for the first time enable the industry to establish industry-wide benchmarks and appropriate standards of provision - and the complementary training framework will signpost our grounds professionals with a structured career pathway," adds Geoff. He continues: "The IOG has continued to develop and expand our training and education offering but we recognise there can be no 'one size fits all' structure; the needs of individual sports fields and their grounds teams varies widely. So, it makes complete sense to tailor training and education to suit each individual case." Rebuilding foundations This begins at grassroots level and will build on the successful IOG-led Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme where £1.3 million has been jointly invested by the England & Wales Cricket Board, The Football Association, the Rugby Football League and Sport England into the funding of nine regional pitch advisors. Designed to share best practice and help bring about a greater understanding and awareness of knowledge in sports turf management, and by raising the standard of sports surfaces also importantly showing how planned turf maintenance can lead to at least 'one more game per pitch per week' ("increased availability means increased participation which equates to increased revenue generation for each site"), the Programme's advisors have been targeting grassroots sites identified by each of the governing body investors. In addition to staging workshops, the advisors have been carrying out a series of Performance Quality Standard tests based largely around the 'basics' of measuring thatch levels, compaction and grass cut/height levels. "It is interesting that in many of these cases, the root cause of pitch problems is centred on the fundamentals of maintenance and invariably compaction," says Geoff. Clear objectives for 2016-2021 The IOG has set clear objectives that will guide its decisions into year 2021: • Providing excellent member networks and benefits • Increasing the IOG's voice and influence • Building on policy and technical work • Expanding the IOG's learning and development capabilities • Managing itself effectively as a business. t "Planned maintenance can generate at least 'one more game per pitch'," says Geoff Webb The Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme is clearly rebuilding the foundations of our sports; foundations that have been torn apart by severe lack of investment over the years " "

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