The Groundsman

June 2016

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Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions AHEAD OF THE GAME 27 the Groundsman June 2016 CRL's Euro 2016 stadia and training base camps projects Line marking demonstration by Richard Hayden (right) and commentary, which is important. Having key equipment available for 'tuning' pitch performance has become essential. On each site, the groundsman in conjunction with UEFA will have the final input on the preparation of the pitch. Machines One thing which is really apparent is France's love of machines. From the outset, each stadium invested in a full set of pedestrian machines for pitch management, with all the well-known brands well represented. All pitches will be pedestrian mown with a full complement of rotary and cylinder mowers. Another difference to be noted in this tournament will be the grass mowing pattern; cut in two directions rather than one - a significant move aimed at improving grass health and pitch aesthetics. Renovations The general policy has been to retain existing pitches and manage them rather than try to aggressively renovate them in a short space of time. So far this strategy has worked well, with most of the stadia managing mature swards of grass which should be stronger and withstand wear better. It would have been nice to strip all the surfaces and have reinforced seeded pitches everywhere, but the timing in most stadia between the last game and the first Euro game was generally quite short. The good thing about these newer products is that when seeded, they are extremely strong. Standard operating procedures In comparison to even Premier League games, the UEFA games have a lot of activity on the pitch pre-kick off. This means that great discipline and standardised operations and timings are used by all groundsmen in preparation for the event. We have operated on a 'train the trainer' principle where head groundsmen have been trained and they, in turn, train their own staff. Team The project has been delivered in French and I am in debt to my fellow consultants and project managers, Sylvain Duval and Sebastien Ranson. Without their input the project could not have been completed. Clive Richardson, managing director and founder of CRL should also be proud of the achievement for his company that has evolved from pitch contracting to a global player in sports pitch management. The team base project The tournament has 22 team base camps scattered across the country and Sebastien Ranson has managed this project from inception to reality. The initial tour of team base camps (TBCs) was conducted in July and August, 2015 and a similar risk scoring system was used to score risk in each camp. One big difference with France and other countries has been the relative lack of investment in natural sports turf pitches in the past 20 years, with synthetic turf being the main winner, particularly in large cities. We are hoping this project will prove that natural turf remains central to the development of football and players in France, from community level upwards. Challenges One initial challenge is that the teams chose a base camp from a catalogue of up to 60 options. The teams could change their minds up until late January/early February, so work couldn't really start on improving the pitches until the spring. The TBC pitch improvement programme was carried out using a combination of CRL, local contractors and, in some cases, in-house municipality machinery. We started in the south of France in February and works varied, including sand injection, drainage installation, Koro surface fraise mowing and seeding. Some pretty major work needed to be done in some cases and this, combined with a spring that saw snow in early May in Paris, was a challenge. Temperatures subsequently rose rapidly and the main challenge has been to ensure that proper resources are applied to the pitches to comply with French labour laws and working hours directives. Training Training and instruction has been a key part of the project. In many cases, general landscaping and local authority staff have had to be trained in the art of groundsmanship and pitch preparation. This has been rewarding but tiresome with many, many trips to the sites and both group and one-to-one sessions. Machines Investment in machines has been an important part of the tournament and the legacy for TBC owners. Although there has been a good uptake of pedestrian rotary mowers, many of the TBC owners have opted for ride-on cylinder mowers, due to legal obligations on working hours and staff availability. This has been an adjustment which we have had to manage. Conclusion As the main communicator between CRL/UEFA and the French industry and groundsmen, the project has been immense but I believe the legacy of Euro 2016 will not just be the facilities but also the know-how and procedures that have been passed on. www.cliverichardsonltd.co.uk

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