Rugby Groundsmen Connected: As a past player, coach and club groundsman, I am only too aware of the importance of having a decent surface to play on, Having said that, there are still many rugby clubs that for one reason or other fail to invest the appropriate time, resources and money in keeping their pitches in a fit for purpose state.
Far too often, this lack of investment ends up with the pitches over time becoming unplayable during wet weather conditions and needing a fair amount of work to bring them back to an acceptable condition.
Most clubs rely heavily on the goodwill of ex-players and members to help with the maintenance of their pitches. However, they can only achieve this if they have the right equipment and resources made available coupled with the relevant knowledge to undertake the maintenance of these pitches.
A recent meeting with Ted Mitchell, RFU Club Facilities Technical Manager and Keith Kent, Head Groundsman at Twickenham Stadium enlightened me on the work the RFU have being doing to support rugby clubs who need advice and help with managing their facilities and pitches and their popular Rugby Groundsman Connected scheme is certainly making a difference.
Rugby Groundsmen Connected (RGC) is the RFU’s easy access, two-way communication network between the RFU and rugby union groundsmen. It is the main communication channel for the RFU to provide information and advice to groundsmen and also has special offers and exclusive benefits for members. Everything the RFU does related to pitch maintenance will now come under the banner of Rugby Groundsmen Connected. Groundsmen Connected is for anybody that has any involvement in the upkeep of rugby pitches; complete novice to Premiership groundsmen. Anyone can register to join RGC at no cost. Registration is by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once signed up they will receive regular communications with advice, information and the opportunity to ask questions.
RGC now has well over 1,000 groundsmen registered and Keith has been very supportive of the scheme and has himself visited many clubs up and down the country to pass on his advice. To help recognise the good work being done by these dedicated volunteers the RFU arranged a groundsman’s ‘Money Can’t Buy’ experience sponsored by the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer Recognition Programme.
I, along with five other club volunteer groundsmen; Adrian Robertshaw (Ross On Wye RFC), Julian Roberts (Devizes RFC), Nigel Mortimore (Topsham RFC,) Colin Hudson (Lutterworth RFC) and John Upton (Volunteer Pitch Advisor), were given a tour of the stadium and a chance to meet up with Keith and his two trusted assistants, Ian and Andy, who spent the day explaining the work they do to keep the hallowed turf at Twickenham in tip top condition.
After an interesting and informative tour of the stadium that included the chance to sit in the royal box, visit the changing rooms and other executive boxes, we were then given opportunity to go down onto the pitch and try out some of the machinery they use.
Keith was keen to demonstrate the wealth of equipment available to help maintain rugby pitches to a high standard. On show was a range of cylinder mowers, rotary mowers, aeration equipment, and compact tractors fitted with Quadraplay units, outfield spikers and slitters.
All in all a great day and one we all will not forget; very educational and a great way to honour the work of these dedicated club volunteers. I personally enjoyed the day immensely, which was topped with the news that my application to become a Volunteer Pitch Advisor for the RFU, working across the North Midlands area, had been accepted.
For me this is a very special opportunity to work with the RFU to deliver one of their key initiatives of their Rugby Groundsmen Connected programme. I am looking forward to visiting many of the clubs I played for and against during my playing days. These clubs have been the cornerstones of sport in the community for many years and this new role is to ensure they continue to thrive and provide decent playing surfaces for the next generation of rugby players.
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