The Groundsman

March 2016

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Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions IOG BEST PRACTICE 21 the Groundsman March 2016 emergence and establishment – we have been successfully using Rigby Taylor's tetraploid seed technology at SGP and we will be assessing its performance for use at Wembley. Initial trials results look very promising." He continues: "I have an excellent team at Wembley of three groundsmen and head groundsman, Karl Standley. Karl has been at Wembley for a number of years and has a deep understanding and appreciation of his role and the expectations that come from working at such an iconic venue. "As many are aware, Wembley is not just the home of English football – it is also used for a wide range of other sports such as rugby and American football, and it is vital we have a grounds team that can accommodate these sports while, importantly, are also able to turn the pitch around to allow the England football team to perform to the highest standards." According to Alan, the stadium also plays host to concerts and, in 2015, the prime minister of India addressed 85,000 enthusiastic supporters. With such intensive use, the stress levels imposed on the playing surface, together with the shade from the stadium roof, mean it is a harsh environment in which to grow and sustain a quality, playing surface. Demands at St George's Park "SGP has a staffing level of 10 groundsmen, three estate landscapers and a project co-ordinator, and we work with selected commercial partners which can provide the high level of support, equipment and products required. Such companies are Rigby Taylor, for consumable products including seed, fertiliser, line marking paint and machines, and Campey Turf Care Systems and Ransomes for mowers, aeration and scarifying equipment. We are also working with Charterhouse for lighter-weight machinery." Both Rigby Taylor and Charterhouse are Official Suppliers to the FA's Pitch Improvement Programme. Many associations and organisations have called on the use of the SGP facilities and all have to be planned in to ensure the pitches are prepared for each particular use. The core sports, funded by Sport England, played at SGP are football, rugby league and union and hockey. The 2015 Rugby World Cup Ireland and Argentina teams used the facility for training, and England's rugby league team was there ahead of the tri-Nations series against New Zealand and France. SGP has 15 pitches, including two Desso Grassmaster surfaces, a SISGRASS pitch, three Fibresand surfaces and four natural grass. There are also five synthetic pitches, including one FIFA 2 star pitch. While the playing surfaces are for all to see, not so visible are areas such as the state-of-the-art sports science facility which includes a human performance laboratory that can stress-test any part of the body, including cardiology treatment, an oxygen chamber and a hydrotherapy suite. In addition to ball sports, jockeys, F1 drivers and basketball players have also taken advantage of these facilities. Though originally funded by The FA and its partners, including Sport England, SGP is not immune to competition. "We are now self-funding," adds Alan, "and since opening our doors, competition for playing facilities is now coming from super academies across England. This means we have to be on top of our game and ensure we can provide facilities and surfaces that are unmatched. Equally important as the quality of the playing surfaces, however, is SGP's commercial ability to provide customer service that is adaptable to a client's specific needs." Alan is well aware of the task he faces but he is approaching it in a very positive manner, as is his way. He is also very aware of the responsibilities of managing a facility such as SGP in a very environmentally-sensitive area – an approach that led to the team winning the IOG Ransomes Jacobsen Environmental Project of the Year Award in 2015 (see page 23) to complement its other 2015 IOG award for NGB Professional Sports Ground of the Year. Alan, however, has an overriding belief in managing through people coupled with leadership through example, and his working life maxim is 'the more you lead, the less you will have to manage'. Richard Fry is marketing director at Rigby Taylor (www.rigbytaylor.com) t Wembley is used for a wide range of other sports, so "it is vital we have a grounds team that can accommodate these sports while, importantly, are also able to turn the pitch around to allow the England football team to perform to the highest standards", says Alan

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