The Groundsman

April 2012

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the Groundsman April 2012 FEATURE 27 aggregates/soil types. We had to marry the perceived performance of all these options with the demands of the venue " So, it's no surprise that we rely heavily on lighting rigs, and that our programme is also enhanced by the use of pre- germinated seed." Tony and team utilise a home-designed and built 'oven' to start off the seed; it is warmed to 25deg for three days to germinate. "This saves at least seven days compared to traditional overseeding and is vital when you're sowing seed in winter." " Acknowledging that Desso is a favoured choice by many Premiership clubs Greg, however, makes clear that the Wembley surface certainly faces a different set of challenges to those faced by the 'conventional' football pitch. Aside from the fact that rugby and American football are regular fixtures (the NFL league game actually puts up to 1,100 litres of paint on the pitch!), he points out that playing hours are regularly extended by international game training sessions, which all adds to the wear and tear, and additional demands on the maintenance regime. The practices adopted by Tony and his three-man team (Karl Standley and David Moulds, who have been at Wembley since it opened, and Brendan Abbott) is, however, benefiting from an unrivalled circle of expert advice, including organisations like the NFL and SGL - the manufacturer of the "indispensable" Club Wembley Almost three-quarters of Wembley Stadium's income is derived from its Club Wembley offering - the premium seat programme (160 corporate boxes and 15,300 seats sold on a long-term licence until 2018) that generates around £50 million/annum: • Guaranteed/priority access to events • Access to the Club Wembley concourse at the stadium (bars and restaurants) • Complimentary train service to/from stadium • Exclusive offers/discounts As well as a choice of 1,000 Watt lighting rigs that are successfully employed – and, closer to home, leading agronomic consultants PSD and the experts at STRI, complemented by the use of top-of-the- range turf maintenance equipment from the likes of John Deere (tractors) and Dennis (mowers). The newly- established National Football Centre at St George's Park (see The Groundsman, October 2011 for the exclusive industry-first report on this facility) is also playing a key role in the performance and care of the Wembley pitch. (Greg is responsible for the facilities, pitch management, security, heath and safety and event day compliance - stewarding, response and medical - teams at both the Centre and at Wembley.) "What we're effectively doing at St George's Park is to create a centre of excellence for groundsmanship," says Greg. "We have a variety of playing surfaces there – including a Desso GrassMaster surface – on which we can trial and test grass types, nutrients and disease treatment, coupled with best-in-class groundscare knowledge exchange and communication via experts such as Alan Ferguson, who is the Centre's Head Groundsman. "We've replicated the Wembley surface there as we want the England players to be able to train on a surface that, for all intents and purposes, is the same as the pitch at Wembley – and, to an extent, both Tony and Alan are employing similar maintenance regimes and as a result are continually exchanging information." Tony joined Wembley three years ago, bringing with him 20 years' groundsmanship experience starting with local authority work (bowling greens and cricket squares), then football at Barnsley FC. The switch from maintaining a Fibresand surface (at Barnsley) to Wembley's Desso has, he said, been relatively painless – thanks to the advice at hand. "Probably one of the biggest challenges has been getting used to the technology employed nowadays," he says. T o ny' s home-made seed "oven"

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