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‘Mr SALTEX’ inducted into GMA Hall of Fame

‘Mr SALTEX’ inducted into GMA Hall of Fame: The Grounds Management Association (GMA) today announces that SALTEX Operations Director, Derek Walder, also known as ‘Mr SALTEX’, will be the third inductee into its industry Hall of Fame.

This latest honour, the most significant gesture of appreciation the GMA can award, follows Derek’s Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and is being awarded to Derek as an acknowledgement of an illustrious career in the industry spanning more than half a century.

‘Mr SALTEX’ inducted into GMA Hall of Fame

‘Mr SALTEX’ inducted into GMA Hall of Fame

Derek’s career has seen him involved in many corners of the groundscare sector, including 26 years as the grounds manager at Wimbledon Football Club’s training site during a legendary period in the club’s history which involved working alongside the notorious group of Wimbledon players known as the ‘Crazy Gang’.

Derek first got involved in SALTEX operations in 1970 as one of many members dedicating their own time in order to ensure SALTEX was a success. His time involved in SALTEX has seen him deal with many important moments in the show’s history, like when the show moved from outdoor venues to an indoor one and, most recently, the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring the safety of visitors at this year’s show. This year, marks his 40th delivery of the annual trade exhibition.

His induction into the GMA’s Hall of Fame means that Derek is just the third inductee, joining legendary grounds managers, the late Eddie Seaward MBE, former Head Groundsman at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club and Steve Braddock, Head of Grounds Management at the Arsenal Football Club training centre. His award represents the many crucial roles being played behind the scenes that keep the sector, and its events, running.

GMA CEO, Geoff Webb, commenting on Derek’s latest honour, says:

“Our Hall of Fame recognises outstanding contributions to the industry and Derek’s achievements go far beyond turf management by bringing together the groundscare sector successfully under one roof year on year. Derek has shown unswerving dedication to the success of SALTEX, and this award is richly deserved.”

On receiving his honour, Hall of Fame inductee, Derek Walder, says:

“There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team’; I am surrounded by a great bunch of people who consistently commit 100 per cent to the show. I’ve been delivering SALTEX for a long time, but at the end of the day we’ve got a good team and that’s what makes it a success.”

An in-depth feature on Derek, and his journey in grounds management which led to his induction into the Grounds Management Association Hall of Fame, was published in the Winter 2021 edition of the GMA’s member magazine, Grounds Management, a preview of which you can read by clicking here.

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GMA education programme continues to grow

GMA education programme continues to grow: The Grounds Management Association (GMA) reaches a significant milestone in its online training with more than 2,000 enrolling for its courses since the pandemic began.

Now, the not-for-profit member organisation adds two new courses to its training offering; Online Level 2 Cricket Surfaces (Applied Turf Culture) and the first face-to-face training course since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Level 2 Racecourse: Turf Management.

GMA education programme continues to grow

GMA education programme continues to grow

Taking around 6 hours to complete, Online Level 2 Cricket Surfaces (Applied Turf Culture) is ideal for volunteers or new additions to grounds teams seeking to develop their skills and learn about the importance of preparing a playing surface with the implementation of an annual maintenance plan.

Students who successfully complete the end of course assessment gain valuable knowledge and applicable skills for day-to-day maintenance activities and a certificate of achievement, whilst the course’s specialist content will be crucial for all aspiring cricket grounds staff or volunteers.

Whilst expanding its online training suite, the GMA also announces the return of face-to-face training with a 5-day training course at the British Racing School. Taking place from 14 – 19 November 2021, Level 2 Racecourse: Turf Management teaches students how to apply the theory required to understand the science of racecourse grounds maintenance and will be equally relevant for individual grounds staff as well as Clerks of the course.

Developed in conjunction with the Racecourse Association and the British Horseracing Authority, the 5-day course will be delivered by industry experts, Alan Lewis NDT, Adrian Kay, Head Groundsman at York Racecourse and Richard Linley, Senior Inspector of Courses at the British Horseracing Authority, with accommodation and food covered in the package.

Dan Prest, Head of Technical and Learning, said:

“It has been an incredibly challenging 18 months, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the drive from so many in the industry to continue in their professional journey and development working in the turf-care sector. Whilst we’ve all had to adapt to a more online-orientated work and study life, we know how valuable practical face-to-face training courses are.

We’re also pleased to be developing more content than ever to align with our Pitch Advisory Service objectives to help volunteers get the most of their local natural and artificial surfaces.”

You can sign-up to online Level 2 Cricket Surfaces (Applied Turf Culture) by clicking here.

Or to find out more about Level 2 Racecourse: Turf Management, click here.

More details on the Pitch Advisory Service can be found on the GMA’s website.

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GMA secures grassroots investment

GMA secures grassroots investment: Today, the Grounds Management Association (GMA) announces a £3.9M investment from the Premier LeagueThe FA, and Government’s Football Foundation with Sport England to deliver the association’s third phase of the pitch improvement programme for grassroots sports.

Formerly known as the Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme (GaNTIP), the newly named Pitch Advisory Service (PAS)is part of the GMA’s ongoing commitment to help improve natural turf provision across football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league at grassroots level in joint collaboration with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL).

GMA secures grassroots investment

GMA secures grassroots investment

After a year of disruption to sport, the GMA’s Pitch Advisory Service will continue to focus on raising the standards of pitches to increase playability, maximise player experience and decrease the number of cancellations due to declining pitch quality.

The programme provides an enhanced network of GMA turf care specialists available to people and organisations maintaining natural turf pitches within local communities, with the funding boost growing the number of GMA advisers available to them by almost 30 per cent.

The Pitch Advisory Service also offers access to dedicated, sport-specific key account managers at the GMA – a team of grounds management specialists bringing years of grassroots and professional knowledge to the programme. Key account managers work collaboratively with each National Governing Body of Sport (NGB), as well as Sport England, to deliver national objectives to sustain high levels of sport and physical activity, now and in future years. During 2019-20, the regional pitch advisors visited more than 4,500 pitches, with the programme improving grounds maintenance practices at 91% of the sites visited.

With lockdown placing sport and physical activity on hold, maintaining playing surfaces remained a vital task for volunteers across the country. New digital applications like the Football Foundation’s PitchPower helped clubs facilitate pitch inspections during restrictive periods, which were each reviewed digitally by the GMA’s regional pitch advisors removing the need for a face-to-face site visits. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, PitchPower allowed the PAS to carry out three times as many pitch assessments as before it was launched and it will remain an important tool now restrictions ease.

During this time, the GMA also supported the ECB in getting recreational cricket played by providing COVID-specific grounds management advice and working with the ECB Facilities Team to engage with local authorities to maximise the number of facilities available in a challenging 2020 season. New online webinars and training courses helped volunteers expand their learning and network with regional pitch advisers.

In addition, the Football Foundation Groundskeeping Community app, managed with support from the GMA, saw a 43% rise in users during lockdown and now has 2,670 engaged members, with numbers continuing to grow.

Innovative and collaborative practices, like online services and applications, will be at the centre of the Pitch Advisory Service, with the GMA providing high-quality recommendations and advice to best support clubs of all shapes and sizes, as well as local authorities, both online and offline.

Through its partnerships, the GMA also aims to increase the number of volunteers, improve skills and knowledge through its training, and provide leading guidance and information for those involved in, or connected to, grounds maintenance at clubs. The programme will also look at ways to encourage women, as well individuals from diverse backgrounds and walks of life to get involved, with the aim to build a strong future workforce.

Next year, the GMA aims to launch an industry-leading Pitch Grading Framework that will provide a benchmark for pitch standards, alongside a simple, affordable education pathway for all grounds staff and volunteers to gain the right level of understanding for each type of pitch.

Jason Booth, COO at the GMA, said:

“We’re grateful for the investment in our Pitch Advisory Service that supports local communities and players. Since 2014, our partnerships with the NGBs and Sport England have grown stronger with each phase of delivery. Now, six years later, we’re seeing huge progress through enhanced education and training of volunteer and professional grounds managers. We want to see millions more enjoying the benefits of playing surfaces – whether it’s to develop sporting talent or just for fun.”

“Through our research, we will continue to highlight the challenges within the turf care sector, but we’re now focussed on developing the future workforce with the aim to recruit, retain and reward volunteers for their commitment. The GMA is here to support volunteers with credible information, advice and guidance – connecting it with an extensive network of grounds people from all walks of life.”

“We hope that this programme signals a change in fortune, particularly at a time when restrictions ease and a sense of normality begins.”

Robert Sullivan, CEO, Football Foundation, said:

“Over the past six years, the Pitch Advisory Service has done a wonderful job supporting community football clubs to maintain and improve their grass pitches. During the COVID-19 pandemic the network came into its own; quickly adapting to work with new digital tools, developed by the Foundation, to ensure pitch quality didn’t suffer as a result of the restrictions.

This new funding means that the PAS can continue to do its essential work providing the football community with the information, training and skills needed to raise the standards of football pitches for the millions of community footballers in England.”

Charles Johnston, Executive Director of Property, Sport England said:

“We are delighted to be working with partners to deliver the Pitch Advisory Service. This collaboration will provide an exciting and transformational service to improve grass pitch quality and develop a more diverse and experienced workforce of groundspeople.

“Pitch quality is important for both player experience and development, so it’s exciting to consider the positive change the multi-sport service can make in tackling inequalities through targeted pitch improvements. As set out in Sport England’s new 10-year strategy, ‘Uniting the Movement’, tackling inequalities within sport and physical activity is at the heart of what we intend to do over the next decade, and services such as this are powerful vehicles to achieve this.”

Bruce Cruse, Director of Facilities and Infrastructure at the ECB commented:

“The ECB is delighted to join the GMA, Sport England and our colleagues from across pitch sports in the challenge to provide outstanding support to grounds management and grass roots sport. Providing great experiences for participants is the foundation of life-long love of sport and in cricket so much relies on access to quality pitches and supporting of the people who make that happen.

“As the ECB is committed through it’s ‘Inspiring Generations’ strategy to connect communities and improve lives this new partnership forms a vital step in the delivery of the plan at the grassroots level and will do so much for the long-term sustainability of our sport.”

For more information on the Pitch Advisory Service, please visit: https://thegma.org.uk/pitch-advisory-service

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GMA takes 3G pitches course online

GMA takes 3G pitches course online: Following a year of significant growth to its online resources, the Grounds Management Association launches its Level 2 ‘Effective Maintenance of 3G Pitches’ training course.

The online course is designed to help participants understand how to effectively maintain a 3G pitch to provide a safe surface, whilst meeting performance criteria and optimising its longevity. ‘Effective Maintenance of 3G Surfaces’ also helps participants understand the signs when a surface is coming to the end of its life.

GMA takes 3G pitches course online

GMA takes 3G pitches course online

With the role of grounds staff and volunteers diversifying, it is increasingly important for more individuals to understand how to maintain and extend the life of different types of playing surfaces. The course is suitable for both professionals and volunteers with basic experience, as well as others involved in sports facility management who wish to gain a better understanding of the maintenance and upkeep of these surfaces on varying budgets.

The course is available to purchase via the GMA’s website for a member and non-member rate. The association now holds seven online courses and aims to relaunch its Continuing Personal Development programme next year alongside its new website.

With restrictions now easing, the GMA hopes to reopen its face-to-face practical sessions that complement its online resources, such as its online courses and the Grounds Management Toolkit, later this year.

To sign-up to Level 2 ‘Effective Maintenance of 3G Pitches’ visit: https://bit.ly/3fKVzWG

Jason Booth, COO at the GMA commented:

“We have seen increasing pressures on grounds staff and volunteers like never before. Facilities are often understaffed, so groundspeople are expected to understand more about a range of surfaces and offer a helping hand across local networks. Contrary to belief, 3G surfaces are not low maintenance and they require a high level of knowledge to fulfil their lifespan.

“This course compliments our wider learning programme that focusses on grass pitches, helping grounds people gain relevant skills and best practices when dealing with 3G surfaces.”

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GMA announces #GroundsWeek 2022

GMA announces #GroundsWeek 2022: The Grounds Management Association (GMA), the leading not-for-profit membership body for grounds professionals, volunteers and businesses, has announced the return of #GroundsWeek in 2022, to be held once again in the first week of March (28th February – 6th March).

This year, GMA launched the inaugural #GroundsWeek – a campaign celebrating grounds management professionals and volunteers, and galvanising a new generation of grounds enthusiasts to help avoid a major skills gap. The integrated digital and media campaign reached over 135 million people, secured support from 1,193 organisations and individuals, and generated over 3,000 mentions of #GroundsWeek on social media.

GMA announces #GroundsWeek 2022

GMA announces #GroundsWeek 2022

Following the huge successes of the inaugural celebration week, GMA has confirmed that GroundsWeek will continue to celebrate and highlight the vital role professional grounds staff and volunteers play in making sport possible each year.

The research conducted by the GMA for #GroundsWeek 2021 showed the severe skills gap the sector was facing. Encouraging people to join the sector is vital, and while 32% of kids want to work in sport, the research found that only 5% understand vital but overlooked roles like grounds management.

This year’s focus was therefore about inspiring young people to enter the industry as a professional and encouraging sports fans everywhere to look at volunteering at their local grounds. Next year, the GMA will aim to build on this, highlighting the amazing community within grounds management and encouraging people from all walks of life to join the sector.

Geoff Webb, CEO of the GMA, said:

“We launched the first ever #GroundsWeek after a tough year, to raise the profile of our sector and show everyone within sport and beyond how important it is to ensure we can all take part in sport and physical activity.

“It’s safe to say that #GroundsWeek has been a huge success. We had teams, organisations, individuals, and sponsors coming together to cheer on grounds people everywhere. All the hard work that goes into sport behind the scenes was highlighted across the nation, and it was amazing to see so many get involved. We’re particularly grateful to our various sponsors who got involved this year in supporting our activity and we hope we can continue working with such fantastic businesses in 2022.

“By building on the success of our first #GroundsWeek, we want to make next year’s celebratory week even bigger and better than before.”

For more information about the GMA and the important work it does within the turf care sector, visit: https://thegma.org.uk/groundsweek

For anyone interested in sponsorship for next year, please get in touch with:

Luke Perry (07765130 712 / LPerry@thegma.org.uk)

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GMA expands online training

GMA expands online training: Today, the Grounds Management Association (GMA) is announcing the latest addition to its online training with its new course, Level 3 – Winter Pitches ‘Advanced Turf Culture’ for experienced volunteers and professionals.

The new online course is ideal for experienced volunteers and grounds team members, and will help participants understand the advanced technical aspects of turf maintenance, and how they form an integral part of a detailed maintenance programme. The course will also support participants in getting the most from their playing surfaces in terms of quality standards and carrying capacity.

GMA expands online training

GMA expands online training

Upon successful completion, participants will have improved their knowledge of winter pitch care management by taking modules that cover soil nutrient testing, grass cultivars and evaluation, control of threats to turf health, health and safety, and the influence of drainage, soil type and compaction, all of which will impact on the carrying capacity of pitches. In addition, the course addresses key skills such as planning winter maintenance programmes and managing surfaces in order to optimise carrying capacity.

Level 3 – Winter Pitches ‘Advanced Turf Culture’ takes approximately 6 hours to complete and consists of 7 informative lessons with content produced by the GMA’s specialist technical and learning team. It is priced at £150 for non-members, but with GMA members receiving discounts of 30%, the course can be available for just £110.

Jason Booth, Chief Operations Officer, said: “Our online learning has been a huge success, and we’re really pleased to be launching this course not long after reaching the milestone of 1000 sign-ups to online training since we first launched it back in May 2020. We’re determined to ensure that grounds staff at all levels have the opportunity to learn and develop their skills, despite the challenges that national restrictions and lockdowns create. With high rainfall and snow ahead of us, launching Level 3 – Winter Pitches ‘Advanced Turf Culture’ now was the clear next step to our online offerings.”

“Following our Level 1 and Level 2 online training courses that cover the basics of grounds maintenance and management, we believe that those who already have some experience also have the opportunity to improve. It also offers inexperienced grounds staff the chance to improve their skills and capabilities through online modules that support their development.”

The GMA will continue to develop and introduce new online training courses for a range of sports as the seasons and weather change throughout the year.

To upskill your knowledge through the GMA’s training courses, or for more information on bespoke training sessions, visit www.thegma.org.uk/learning or email learning@thegma.org.uk

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GMA announces first ever #GroundsWeek

GMA announces first ever #GroundsWeek: Grounds Management Association (GMA), the leading not-for-profit membership body for grounds professionals and volunteers, announces the launch of #GroundsWeek.

The inaugural celebration week will take place March (1 -7 March 2021) and will celebrate and highlight the vital role of professional grounds staff, volunteers, and the turf sector play in making sport possible.

GMA announces first ever #GroundsWeek

GMA announces first ever #GroundsWeek

Following a difficult year for the sector, due to the impact of Covid-19, the GMA 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 valuable to the public’s health – with increased use for ‘daily exercise’ and physical activity.

Grounds management continues to be challenging beyond 2020 due to limited resources and budgets, coupled with more varied and unpredictable weather conditions that makes planning tasks more difficult.

Geoff Webb, CEO of the GMA, said: “We know that the skill involved is often misunderstood. We want to inspire sports fans and the general public to celebrate alongside us and get even more people to enter the profession and lend a helping hand at pitches across the country.

“Without the vital work that grounds staff do, many sports would face cancellations and potentially closure. This is a chance to recognise all the hard work that goes into making sport possible and keeping green spaces accessible.”

The GMA’s campaign will encourage individuals and organisations across the industry, whether they have a career in grounds management or volunteer for an hour a week, to get involved both on the pitch and on social media.

Further details about the campaign will follow in February, alongside #GroundsWeek graphics and content for wider use. This will include top tips and a social media pack for organisations wanting to get involved. Businesses can also get involved by pledging to be a #GroundsWeek partner.

Geoff continued:

“Grounds staff are vital and the work they do is essential to getting the nation active – from professional athletes to local communities. After a really tough year, we’re launching this celebration week to raise awareness and give our members the opportunity to get the recognition they deserve.

For more information about the GMA and the important work they do within grounds maintenance, visit: https://thegma.org.uk/

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GMA launches new online toolkit

GMA launches new online toolkit: The Grounds Management Association (GMA) today launches its online ‘Grounds Management Toolkit’, a training resource aimed to support volunteers maintaining football, cricket, rugby league and rugby union pitches.

The new website consolidates information from the Sport England ‘Groundsmanship’ website and has reshaped some of its written content into short videos and easy-to-digest seasonal maintenance guides.

GMA launches new online toolkit

GMA launches new online toolkit

By relaunching the website, the GMA aims to continue increasing the skills and capabilities of practicing and future grounds volunteers. The resources also help the general public to engage further with common practices involved in grounds maintenance and to understand how to help get pitches ready for players across their community.

The ‘Grounds Management Toolkit’ follows the launch of the GMA’s Level 1 and Level 2 online training courses, with modules that cover the basic grounds maintenance tasks required at grassroots level.

With face-to-face classroom training currently on hold due to restrictions, the GMA is developing its digital capabilities and touch points – such as webinars – to keep its member community, and the wider public, educated and informed on key issues relating to grounds management.

Jason Booth, Chief Operating Officer of the GMA, said: “We’re committed to providing the best possible tools across all levels so that grounds management tasks are consistently completed to a high standard, aligning with the Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme (GaNTIP) strategy that is delivered in partnership with the NGBs.

“We know that volunteers can sometimes only offer a few hours of their time each week, or that some local clubs struggle to find regular grounds volunteers. Without pitches, there is no sport so it could mean that millions of children and adults could miss out on physical activity.

“We’re really grateful for Sport England’s support in helping us deliver the ‘Grounds Management Toolkit’, giving us the opportunity to make this resource free for all.”

Speaking about the new website, Tony Atherton, Technical Team Lead, of Sport England said: “We’re really supportive of the GMA’s approach to upskilling grounds staff and volunteers, so handing over the Groundsmanship website was a natural progression of the success we have achieved with this resource to-date. I really hope the grounds community feels that the Toolkit supports and compliments their hard work.”

The ‘Grounds Management Toolkit’ that has been developed by Other Media and funded by Sport England, can be accessed for free via https://resources.thegma.org.uk/

To upskill your knowledge through the GMA’s training courses, or for more information on bespoke training sessions, visit www.thegma.org.uk/learning or email learning@thegma.org.uk

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GMA launches online training

GMA launches online training: Grounds Management Association, the leading not-for-profit organisation for grounds professionals and volunteers, announces further support for its Individual, Organisation and Corporate members during the Coronavirus outbreak.

This news follows its latest Covid-19 guidance for the sector, and Grounds Management Association (GMA) is offering payment deferral on membership fees for up to three-months. Any new members signing-up by direct debit before July will also receive a three-month deferral.

GMA launches online training

GMA launches online training

On 5 May, GMA launches its new online learning courses boosting the nations grounds care skills to get the best results out of sport surfaces, which can be put into play as soon as normal working resumes. The training covers the maintenance of sport surfaces and facilities at grassroots level – which allows the opportunity to enhance practical skills with a sound understanding of turfgrass basics.

Level 1 training is suitable for both professionals and volunteers, and the courses include cricket, football, rugby league and rugby union. Each participant will receive a certificate upon completion and be signposted to practical videos to use after the session.

The training aims to help build a cohort of skilled grounds staff and volunteers and make sport possible across the nation, helping to increase the number of games played on natural turf pitches, resulting in even better user experiences.

The online courses follow the theory content of the traditional course and the online learning allows participants to join a virtual community, receive remote mentoring, and enhance career prospects.

GMA is also developing a progressive online training package of courses for both professionals and volunteers, including Level 2 and 3 to compliment the skills required beyond Level 1.

Geoff Webb, CEO at Grounds Management Association said: “We know our member’s lives are impacted at the moment. In difficult times, it’s positive to know that we have a really strong community and we want to ensure our services and benefits support our members in a variety of ways.”

Jason Booth, Director of Technical and Learning: “This month, we’ve seen the community spirit of groundspeople strengthen and grow more than ever before.

“We have an amazing industry that thrives when working outdoors, and I hope our online learning helps keep professionals and volunteers motivated about their passion and career progression. We’re dedicated to skills development and have quickly adapted our leading learning modules to give members the digital access they’re calling for.”

GMA is also in regular discussion with sport NGBs to provide latest sport-specific guidance regarding the outbreak of Coronavirus, which will be updated monthly and published online.

Sign-up here for Grounds Management Association’s new online learning – learning@thegma.org.uk (phone 01908 552982), or for membership, including to make a claim for a deferral please email membership@thegma.org.uk.

In addition, GMA is networking closely with Perennial – a free and confidential support service for individuals working in horticulture. It also extends to spouses, partners and children, supporting on mental health, bereavement and financial affairs. Members can also access Law Express for free and impartial personal, or business legal advice.

Julia Hayne, Director of Services at Perennial, says:

“We know people are worried; it’s only natural to be concerned about your own health, your ability to continue working and to support your family. We are all facing unprecedented challenges as we adjust to new ways of working and Perennial is determined to remain available and active for everyone.”

Members can access Perennial’s free support line on 0800 093 8543, or visit perennial.org.uk, and Law Express services can be accessed via the Grounds Management Association’s member portal.

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