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The underlying message of ‘having more people, playing on better pitches, more of the time’ was loud and clear as The Football Association (The FA) announced its Pitch Improvement Programme (PIP).

Along with partners, Redexim Charterhouse Turf Machinery and Rigby Taylor, the Association has officially launched its GBP£8m scheme to help improve more than 2,000 natural turf football pitches from the National Conference League down.

Part of The FA’s Strategy for Participation and Development, the four-year PIP scheme will enable grassroots clubs to access discounted products from two of the industry’s leading suppliers – Redexim Charterhouse for machinery and equipment, and Rigby Taylor for grass seed, fertilisers, line marking paints and machines, as well as other consumable products.

The programme will be supported by a range of partners including the network of Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) regional pitch advisors, professional and semi-professional groundstaff, and coordinated by the respective county FA. It will also include a range of measures to help develop the skills and knowledge of the volunteers and groundsmen including seminars and workshops. Interested clubs need first to contact their county FA to find out how to start the ‘ball’ rolling.

Launching the programme, The FA’s Director of Participation and Development Kelly Simmons, and Mark Pover, The FA’s National Facilities and Investment Manager, both emphasised how the scheme is designed to enable thousands of groundsmen – predominantly volunteers – to make the most of their time and their budgets. By being aware of and using the latest maintenance techniques and turf care technologies, they said, not only will the standard of pitches improve but also more games will be able to be played.

Alan Ferguson, The FA’s Head Groundsman, added how PIP offers volunteer groundsmen unprecedented access to the products and expertise of leading suppliers:

Helping them on their way to achieving playing surfaces that facilities like St George’s Park and Wembley Stadium have consistently enjoyed.

He went on to say that www.groundsmanship.co.uk, developed in conjunction with other governing bodies and Sport England, was also available to offer complementary help.

Commenting at the launch, Rigby Taylor’s Executive Chairman, Chris Clark, said:

Our Official Supplier status to the Pitch Improvement Programme provides a fantastic opportunity for grassroots football clubs to benefit from of our market-leading products that are the result of years of research and development. PIP gives these organisations a unique opportunity to make considerable gains at relatively low cost.

Redexim Charterhouse’s Business Development Manager, Curtis Allen, added:

Since being involved in the programme it has become very clear that there is no shortage of dedication and desire to improve at grassroots level. There is however a lack of equipment available for those tasked with producing a playable surface year round. With this initiative they get to bring their machinery requirements in line with their never-ending quest for improved playing surfaces. The programme enables grassroots organisations to take ownership of the maintenance programme which is such an important part of the game that often gets forgotten.

 

Our forthcoming Q1 edition of PanStadia & Arena Management is to feature a special piece focusing on the importance of Pitch Management Programmes, with insights from a number of industry experts.

The FA have confirmed that 3G pitches will be allowed in every round of The FA Cup from next season. FA Cup rules currently state that 3G surfaces are not allowed to be used after the First Round Proper, but from the 2014-15 FA Cup campaign surfaces that are on the register of 3G football turf pitches will be able to be used right through the competition.

FA general secretary Alex Horne said: “We’re delighted that The FA Cup committee and the professional game board have approved this rule change, as recommended by The FA board. Clubs are increasingly seeing the benefits of using 3G surfaces across the football pyramid and clubs who play on those surfaces can now retain home advantage in the competition. They are a very useful asset and capable of delivering 50 plus hours per week.”

Horne also explained the benefits of 3G for wider use in the grassroots football community: “They are a very useful asset and capable of delivering 50 plus hours per week as compared to a natural turf pitch which can deliver perhaps five hours per week. This is clearly an advantage for clubs, or communities, wishing to deliver a pitch with sustainable running costs.”

Horne continued: “The value of 3G pitches has been clearly demonstrated during the recent wet weather where leagues within the grassroots game have migrated to them to address fixture backlogs. There are only around 600 good quality artificial grass pitches across the country that are used extensively for training and development, and increasingly for fixtures. The FA is looking at plans to get more delivered long-term in England.”

Source: ESTO www.theesto.com