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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.

IOG announces venue for this year’s Conference and Awards

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The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) has announced that this year’s National Conference and Industry Awards will be held at MK Dons Stadium in Milton Keynes, UK, on Thursday, December 4, 2014.

 

Building on the success of previous years, the IOG’s sixth, annual, national event will host leading speakers from across the sports turf industry, as well as influential experts in major sports facility and event operation.

 

The evening Awards event will celebrate the very best practice in groundsmanship – from grounds management teams at top, internationally-renowned sports venues to grassroots club volunteers.

 

New for 2014, the IOG has joined forces with the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) to introduce three BIGGA Awards that will recognise the achievements of greenkeepers the length and breadth of the UK, whether they are employed at large multi-course facilities or smaller venues.

 

Commenting on BIGGA’s involvement, IOG CEO Geoff Webb said: “The IOG welcomes this new partnership with BIGGA. The addition of golf awards will enhance this great event that has quickly become a central feature within the turf industry. Like groundsmen, greenkeepers deserve recognition for the great work they do. We look forward to welcoming our friends at BIGGA to this year’s event.”

 

BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton added: “The IOG Conference and Awards event has developed into a fantastic occasion during which we celebrate great achievement in the groundsmanship industry.  I’m delighted that we are partnering with the IOG to bring greenkeeping awards into the fold. The sponsors and supporters of the event see great value in the opportunity to bring the entire turf management industry together to reward the remarkable achievements of its practitioners and we very much look forward to working closely with the IOG to add further value to one of the highlights of the industry calendar.”

 

The successful Awards will be the sixth in the annual series. They highlight the high standards of volunteer and professional grounds staff and facilities, from grass roots to professional stadia level. Covering categories such as sport, young people and the environment, the awards are judged by an independent panel on criteria that include effective use of resources, budgetary control, presentation and housekeeping standards, as well as environmental considerations.

IOG Conference highlights shifting challenges for today’s groundsmen

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The IOG conference this week saw the announcement of substantial new funding for pitch advisors to improve grass roots playing facilities in the UK. The IOG is working with the ECB, Rugby League and Football Foundation among others to add eight regional advisors and is actively recruiting now. Sport England CEO Jennie Price briefed the audience on sport participation in the UK and the quango’s targets to get more high-class pitches to facilitate team sports, especially football. In doing so, she kicked off a running debate concerning the best way to achieve this – natural or synthetic pitches.

IOG members were entertained by a series of interviews conducted by Radio 5 Live’s Mark Clemmit (pictured left interviewing Tottenham Hotspur’s Head Groundsman Darren Baldwin). Head Groundsman and former IOG award winner Colin Calderwood gave the inside story on his ‘transfer’ to Parc des Princes from Villa Park.

The panel discussion about synthetic turf brought out facts and figures to help the debate but also members’ passion for natural turf and concerns about a lack of knowledge amongst sport administrators when comparing synthetic and natural capabilities. IOG CEO Geoff Webb challenged the natural turf industry to get its message across and to further develop the characteristics – mainly playing hours and durability – that sports facilities are looking for in natural turf fields.

When it comes to durability, Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Colorado is an example of multiple community fields offering high usage in various sports in extreme weather conditions, mainly on natural turf. Phil McQuade, Assistant Turf Manager at the facility (and STMA member), showed snow clearance and recovery from heavy rain downpour that defied belief. Snow threatens play in Spring while temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit aren’t uncommon in the summer months. McQuade showed how machinery, relentless documentation and analysis, and very hard work overcome the weather to get professional and amateur games played to schedule.

Gethin Jenkins, Head of Event Delivery for Rugby World Cup 2015, used the conference to begin a listening exercise with groundsmen in the stadiums and training centres which will support the world’s third largest sporting tournament. The tournament is renting large capacity soccer stadiums such as Wembley and Etihad, plus the London Olympic Stadium, to provide 2.3m seats. Groundsmen may find themselves putting on a Champions League or League Cup game in the same week as a World Cup rugby match and meeting the needs of both sports is looking like a formidable challenge. The conference demonstrated that solving such problems is the regular responsibility of groundsmen in the UK and across the world.