The Groundsman

April 2012

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38 FEATURE the Groundsman April 2012 His experiences at the private sports club – where "I had to make my own decisions, develop my own maintenance plan and deal with all types of people, from players through to greens committee members" – obviously stood him in good stead for his current role. "When I joined here the site had two rugby pitches, two football pitches and a cricket square. The herringbone drainage system was ineffective, due to the construction of the site, the soil consistency (silty clay) and because of the fact that some of the pipes weren't even connected. So, waterlogging was a continual headache. "The university has, however, continued to invest in the development of the site. We've installed a full-sized synthetic sand-filled pitch, secondary drainage systems on various pitches, new and upgraded floodlights as well as three new full-sized football pitches, plus a full-sized 3G Desso ProChallenger rubber crumb pitch with floodlights. In addition, an Academic Teaching & Sport Science Centre has been built (including indoor sports hall) and a building has been erected for the Cardiff City FC Academy. Plus there's been further investment to improve the pitches by adding more sand/gravel trenches and sandbanding." (Les still has one of the original-version AF trenchers in the workshop!) The site is heavily used, with football and rugby dominating – for example, it is the Cardiff Academy ground and is regularly used by the Welsh Football Trust, Neath FC and various community groups. Until recent years, it was the training ground for Cardiff City FC and has been used by the Welsh national football squad and overseas teams like Lazio. In addition, it is home to the Pontypridd rugby club and the Blues Academy and has hosted many overseas national rugby squads, including those from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Samoa and Japan. And, of course, the pitches are used by the university students – some pitches have camera towers alongside so that play can be filmed and later analysed as part of the university's sports science curriculum. It is the job of Les and his team to keep the pitches fit for purpose. "There is no doubt that the synthetic pitches offer more playing hours (though the players do always prefer natural grass), but they do have to be maintained regularly and to a high level," he says. "But it is the grass pitches that really take a hammering; the sports have to go on and it is our job to ensure the pitches are fit-for-purpose – in other words, that they are playable. The only time a game would be cancelled is when the pitch could be dangerous. "We cope through a combination of using the pitches on a rotational basis, plus a concerted maintenance programme of rolling and aeration, combined with other traditional maintenance routines of topdressing, overseeding, fertilising etc." Les says the workload is unremitting. "But we wouldn't have it any other way. The university is committed to providing high-class sporting facilities, and as a groundscare team we're likewise committed to doing everything in our power to make that happen." Rugby on natural turf - a key sport at the University of Glamorgan site

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