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British Sugar TOPSOIL supports #GroundsWeek

British Sugar TOPSOIL supports #GroundsWeek: British Sugar TOPSOIL, a leading UK producer of quality topdressing and topsoil products for the sports, amenity, landscaping and construction sectors, is proud to officially support the Grounds Management Association’s #GroundsWeek, an inaugural celebration week for the turf care sector.

Managed by the Grounds Management Association (GMA), the leading not-for-profit membership body for grounds professionals and volunteers, the turf care campaign will take place 1-7 March 2021 and will celebrate and highlight the vital role that professional grounds staff, volunteers, and the turf sector play in making sport possible.

British Sugar TOPSOIL supports #GroundsWeek

British Sugar TOPSOIL supports #GroundsWeek

Following a difficult year for the sector due to the impact of Covid-19, #GroundsWeek aims to showcase grounds staff and the amazing work that they do – and have continued to do – despite sport coming to a grinding halt. It also comes after a year where parks and green spaces have been hugely valuable to the public’s health, with increased use for ‘daily exercise’ and physical activity.

To celebrate the week, British Sugar TOPSOIL will be promoting the benefits of using its Sports&Turf topdressing for the repair and improvement of natural playing surfaces.

A 90/10 blend of medium to coarse sub-angular sand with British Sugar TOPSOIL’s BS3882:2015-compliant topsoil, Sports&Turf incorporates readily into the sward, increasing the fertility of the root zone and encouraging grass to regenerate more readily, particularly in areas of heavy wear such as goalmouths.

Andy Spetch, National TOPSOIL Manager at British Sugar TOPSOIL, a GMA Corporate Partner, said:

“British Sugar TOPSOIL is delighted to be supporting the GMA’s GroundsWeek initiative, which will highlight the invaluable work carried out by professional and volunteer grounds staff across the country. As an industry supplier, British Sugar TOPSOIL is constantly developing and trialling its products to give grounds staff the tools they need to ensure natural playing surfaces can withstand both heavy usage and the impact of our changing UK climate.”

Geoff Webb, CEO of the GMA, said:

“After a tough year, GroundsWeek is a fantastic opportunity for every part of the sector to come together and celebrate all the hard work that’s gone on throughout the year. We want to inspire sports fans and the general public to realise the vital role we play and get even more people to enter the profession and lend a helping hand at pitches across the country.

“We’re grateful to those officially supporting #GroundsWeek, with businesses and partners helping us champion grounds staff and the amazing work they do.

More information on #GroundsWeek can be found here.

For details of British Sugar TOPSOIL products, and to download a free copy of the Essential Guide to Top Dressing, visit www.bstopsoil.co.uk/product-range/sportsturf

Twitter: @Topsoil_BS

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JCB backs British canoeist

JCB backs British canoeist: British canoeing medallist Adam Burgess has some extra power in his paddle as he goes for gold this summer – after landing a sponsorship deal from digger maker JCB.

Staffordshire-born Adam, 27, started canoeing aged 10 on the River Trent in Stone, Staffordshire with the Stafford and Stone Canoe Club and has been competing internationally for Great Britain and winning medals since the age of 14.

JCB backs British canoeist

JCB backs British canoeist

In 2015, he won the U23 World Championship in Brazil and two years later took his first individual World Cup medal in Markkleeberg, near Leipzig, Germany, and reached a career high World Ranking of 7th.

Now, Adam is celebrating after Rocester-based JCB stepped in to offer him sponsorship as he prepares for his greatest challenge – the 2020 summer games in Tokyo. Adam has already qualified for the event despite being considered an underdog after battling back from injury.

Adam, of Stone, said today: “JCB’s sponsorship has changed so much for me. Mostly, it means zero compromise now in my preparations for this year. It means I will have the best equipment available and take advantage of every recovery strategy I can in terms of diet. After all this hard work, it feels fantastic to be identified by such an amazing local company for this opportunity, and I will be incredibly proud to represent JCB!”

JCB Chairman Lord Bamford said: “2020 is a very special year for our family company, as we celebrate our 75th anniversary. We are delighted to give our support to one of Staffordshire’s young ‘home-grown’ sports stars, and it would be wonderful to think that Adam could give the county cause for extra celebration this summer. We wish him the very best of luck in Tokyo and in his future career.”

Adam is based in London at the Lee Valley White Water Centre and regularly travels home to visit his family in Stone and Trentham. He rarely travels without his canoe – enabling him to enjoy a nostalgic paddle on the River Trent.

Adam added: “I used to train regularly before school on the Trent and I firmly believe it’s that work I did back then which made me the athlete I am today. I am fast across the water and very efficient – something I attribute to the days paddling ‘through treacle’ on the Trent in Stone!

“This year it is all about the games and I’m doing everything I can to try to bring home that gold medal. I have been selected much earlier than most of my main rivals, which is a great advantage. I only have to peak once this year at the end of July whereas my rivals still have to navigate their national selections between March-May.”

Adam credits much of his recent form to his devotion to yoga and will shortly qualify as a yogi. The life-long Stoke City fan is also a qualified barista with a big love for speciality coffee.

Adam is the second Staffordshire athlete to be sponsored by JCB in the run-up to the 2020 games. The company has also given its financial support to British Triple Jumping champion Ben Williams, 28, of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, as he prepares to represent Great Britain at the summer games.

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British Groundsmen In Europe

British Groundsmen In Europe: Amid the spending spree since Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, the signing of a 35-year-old Northern Irishman might not have made many headlines but he arrived to huge promises from the club’s owners.

Jonathan Calderwood arrived in Paris in June 2013, headhunted on the advice of former Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier. Immediately Calderwood was told he would play a key role in the new owners’ vision to make PSG one of the biggest clubs in the world.

British Groundsmen In Europe

“It was a big decision for me. It’s a huge challenge but a unique opportunity,” Calderwood tells The Independent.

As head grounds manager, Ballymena native Calderwood is responsible for PSG’s pitches being among the world’s best. When the club’s new training complex is complete, he will lead a staff of 55 groundsmen overseeing 32 pitches, including the Parc des Princes.

The reputation that brought PSG calling was earned in 12 award-winning years as Aston Villa’s groundsman. Since his arrival, PSG have complemented their domestic dominance by winning Ligue 1’s best pitch for four consecutive seasons.

While players from the British Isles have historically struggled outside their own lands, Calderwood is one of a flurry of home-grown groundsmen cutting it abroad.

On the other side of Paris, Yorkshireman Tony Stones is in charge of ensuring the turf at the Stade de France is perfect for the French national football and rugby sides. Formerly head groundsman at Wembley, Stones got his start looking after bowling greens and golf and cricket pitches in Barnsley.

At Real Madrid, Galactico groundsman Paul Burgess is another Brit considered one of the best grass masters in the world. He has spent nearly nine years overseeing Real’s pitches, including the Bernabeu stadium, after leaving Arsenal where he played a big part in the design of the Emirates Stadium to ensure optimal grass-growing conditions. In October, he was joined in the Spanish capital by Anglo-Spanish groundsman Dan Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who had been in charge of the turf at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, was poached to become head groundsman at Atletico Madrid’s new ground, the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano.

British Groundsmen In Europe

From preparing penalty spots for Ronaldo and Neymar to cultivating pitches to suit the demands of coaches, the achievements of groundsmen are often unsung. With manicured surfaces the expectation in modern football, groundsmen, like referees, aren’t noticed until there’s a problem.

“Nobody wants to see a consultant when the pitch is perfect. It’s like seeing the dentist,” says Richard Hayden, an Irish grass consultant who once drove a tractor on a golf course and now advises on World Cup final pitches.

Sometimes called when the pitch equivalent of root canal is required, Hayden knows the pressure groundsmen face – from critical coaches to players looking accusingly at the grass after missing a sitter.

“It can be a very thankless job because if the pitch is perfect nobody really hears about it and nobody wants to talk about,” he says.

“I can’t watch the games. I sat in the World Cup final in 2010 and other finals and I couldn’t even take in the score during the game. My entire focus is on the turf and how it’s performing and interacting with the player.”

Calderwood says groundsmen take on a dual responsibility – ensuring the risk of injury, and a bad pitch bobble, is minimal.

“We have gone from basically cutting grass, to protecting the club’s investments. It’s almost an insurance role now,” he says.

“People talk about the Championship play-off final being the £100 million game. If the ball rolls across the six-yard area and there’s a bad bounce off the pitch so the striker misses, that can cost the club £100 million.”

Since the days of “England’s greatest gardener” Capability Brown, the British Isles has had a reputation for producing green-fingered talent. But Geoff Webb, from the Institute of Groundsmanship, says the willingness of UK and Irish groundsmen to embrace advances in technology is one reason “the rest of the world plays catch up”.

Technology has outdated the image of a groundsman as an amateur gardener casually pushing a mower around. Modern turf managers must consider everything from pesticide and fertilizer legislation, to often unpredictable stadium microclimates.

The international popularity of the Premier League – and the perfect pitches the teams play on – has also been a great advert for groundsmen.

“I have no doubt that the impact of live sport on television, for example with Sky TV, has helped raise awareness and made the UK groundsman attractive worldwide,” Webb says.

Azerbaijan-based Phil Sharples is one of those fulfilling the demand to emulate the Premier League’s pristine pitches from further afield. When he arrived in the country in 2010 there was one professional-standard pitch – a synthetic one – but the development has been such that Sharples is currently setting up Azerbaijan’s first formal qualifications to train a new generation of local groundsmen.

“Sport is developing and the demand for quality, strong, resilient and very presentable playing surfaces is high,” Sharples, whose first grass job was on a golf course in hometown Watford, says.

Dean Gilasbey, from Llanelli in Wales, has overseen the past two Champions League and Europa League final pitches and also works with Fifa to train aspiring groundsmen in countries including Iran, Macedonia and Ghana. Last year, he was in charge of pitches at the Under-17 World Cup in India.

“The Premier League is always on TVs across the world, the guys in India for example watch the matches and they want pitches as good as that,” he says.

“I have seen six out of the 10 pitches in India that would compete with Premier League standards nowadays and lots (more) across the globe.

“Slowly but surely, the rest of the world is catching up.”

Away from the British Isles’ unpredictable but relatively tame climate (notwithstanding the recent Beast from the East), challenges can be as extreme as the weather.

Overseeing pitches at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Richard Hayden developed a world-first pitch-cooling system for the Arena Corinthians, to cope with the 40-degree days in São Paulo’s rainy season. He was also tasked with recreating the surface at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv in Ukraine – while ensuring it was hardy enough to withstand minus 30-degree temperatures.

Unusually for a groundsman, Calderwood has found himself a mini-celebrity since moving to Paris. In France, where, like other European countries, it is still common for stadiums to be owned and managed by the local government, Calderwood’s signing was reported like that of a star player. Former PSG boss Laurent Blanc publicly thanked him after winning the title. And striker Zlatan Ibrahimović joked he was jealous of the attention the Northern Irishman – dubbed ‘L’Anglais Jardinier’ (‘The English Gardener’) by the media – was getting.

He has also been “pleasantly surprised” by how appreciative PSG’s superstar players are.

“These guys are world-class and when they are at that level the pitch is a weapon for them,” Calderwood says.

“It’s like a snooker player’s cue or a tennis player’s racquet. They know that to be able to perform at the highest level, the pitch is so important.”

But while he appreciates the attention on his work, Calderwood knows groundsmen are ultimately judged on the performance of their pitch.

“In football they say to a player ‘you’re only as good as your last game’,” Calderwood says.

“I’ve always said ‘you’re only as good as your last pitch’.”

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