The Groundsman

September 2016

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Visit for more information and digital editions IOG BEST PRACTICE 23 the Groundsman September 2016 Garry Blackadder was left in no doubt over the passion of the BT Murrayfield grounds team when he joined the Scottish Rugby Union as facilities manager three years ago. "They were talking about the pitches as though they were people," he says, "saying things like 'she needs a drink' or 'it's time she had a feed'. I know a grass pitch is a living thing, but head groundsman Jim Dawson and his team were speaking about the grass in a very personal way – and they still do, which undoubtedly explains why the award-winning team consistently achieve first-class playing surfaces." That said, it soon also became clear to him that everyone at Scottish Rugby is 'on the same journey' he says, "and in terms of BT Murrayfield alone, that is to deliver a fantastic experience for every visitor to the stadium". Now head of stadium and estates for Scottish Rugby, Garry's remit covers three main areas/teams; the pitch squad, a trade team and grounds staff, and he obviously works in close co-operation with Jim Dawson and his team. He insists that every action by everyone at Scottish Rugby is designed to consistently present world-class events, often to global audiences "where every nook and cranny is always under close scrutiny and, as a result, this puts everyone under tremendous pressure", he adds. "It is the most challenging job I've had," says Garry, "but also the most rewarding, especially when the feedback is positive." You could argue that Garry's move into a management role within Scottish Rugby is the icing on the cake for a man with a rugby-playing background (for Glasgow Southern), joining the Edinburgh-based team from visitor attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments. "Rugby is a sport where you build friendships that last forever," he says, "and the camaraderie I enjoyed as a rugby player has continued here at Scottish Rugby, too." Commenting on the change to a Desso surface at the BT Murrayfield stadium, Garry concurs with Jim Dawson that the Scottish weather – it is often wet there for 300 days of each year - will always put different challenges on the team to deliver a first-class playing surface. "It was a case of installing a world-class product if we had any hope of achieving a world-class playing surface," he says. Demonstrating just how much importance he places on developing his management skills, and fully understanding the hurdles that his team members face, Garry has recently enrolled on a Level 2 City & Guilds Extended Certificate in Sports and Amenity Turf Maintenance, an 11- month programme (mainly online) via the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG). "I didn't have to do the course but I signed up for a number of reasons: I wanted to reinforce my level of integrity within the pitch team; I take an interest in what they do; and I wanted to expand my skills set. Importantly, too, I want to have a clear understanding of the challenges we face to present world-class surfaces." Confessing that he runs the facilities operation "as if it were my own business, in ways that some might say are too intense", Garry is quick to recognise and harness the passion that "clearly permeates many aspects of the groundscare sector". He adds: "Take the IOG. For the past 12 months or so we've become more and more involved with the institute – and deputy head groundsman Alex Latto now adds a Scottish view to IOG opinion-forming debates – because it is clear that the IOG is passionate about the sector and the people it represents." l Everyone at Scottish Rugby is on the same journey – to deliver world-class experiences Garry Blackadder: "Everyone here is on the same journey - to deliver a fantastic experience to every visitor to the stadium" "The IOG team award is a great accolade for us all," says Jim Dawson who is pictured, second right, with from left, Callum McMillan, Alex Latto and Jason Tailford

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