New man at the helm

New man at the helm: The new Chair of the IOG is a man who is a believer in evolution not revolution and, such has been the strides taken by the Institute on the recent past, you can be sure that there wouldn’t be a need for any U turns or radical changes in approach under his stewardship. 

David Carpenter has been a member of the IOG Board for nine years and played a key part in the move of Saltex from Windsor Racecourse north to the NEC in Birmingham and he has seen levels of professionalism across the board increase during his time involved.

New man at the helm

“I certainly don’t think that I need to take anything by the scruff of the neck. I have every confidence in the rest of the Board and the Executive team and we have been working together as a group extremely well,” explained David, who can call on his vast and relevant experience from working for the Sports Council and the Lottery Fund.

“I’m not suddenly going to change direction unless there is good reason to do so.” That is not to say that David, who took over the reins from David Teasdale, is going to be passive. He is a deep thinker on the subject of groundsmanship and the issues that are inherent in an industry which rarely gets the credit it deserves.

“I am concerned about the lack of new people coming into the industry, both as volunteers and professionals and I’d certainly like to see more young people entering the profession.

I’d also like to see more women in grounds management and I’d like to see more black and ethnic minorities represented in our profession.

“Such is the lack of level of entry, we can’t afford to not have half the population as potential ground staff,” he said.

He is not overly concerned with the elite side of the industry in terms of surface quality, after all we have many of the finest grounds managers in the world. But at the community end of the industry which impacts most on the greatest number of people there are real issues that must be addressed.

GanTIP has already conclusively identified that natural pitches are not in good condition at community level but already Jason and his team have tackled and improved nearly
4,000 community football pitches. They are doing a great job.

“I do see a scenario where community facilities could actually get worse before they get better. Local authorities are not recruiting and we have to find other routes into the profession. A lot of the volunteers we do have are older people and they are not going to be around forever and we need new younger people to work alongside and eventually take over,”

“We also know that with a little more investment there is an opportunity to make significant improvement.”

On education and professional development David has some interesting views.

“It strikes me that grounds management is where sports coaching was 20 years ago. Then there was no structured pathway for coaching and coaching appointments were very random, particularly outside of perhaps football and cricket.

“The status of the coach was really quite low. As a result of a more structured approach and clear pathways that status is much higher and coaches now receive much more respect. I think that is possible for grounds management if we are able improve the pathway quite significantly.”

One of the ways in which this could be achieved is an education process for operations managers, such as Contract Managers, Bursars and Arena Managers, who are ultimately responsible for grounds management.

“I think this process will take much longer than my time as Chair but it is a very important aspect and one which requires significant input. It is ridiculous that so many sports rely on good surfaces yet groundsmen and women don’t have the same parallel standing as those carrying out other functions within the organisation.”

He does have another interesting idea, which he stresses is his own and not IOG policy.

“I’d like to see education for the volunteer side of the industry available on a free of charge basis. Obviously that would require sponsorship support and we would have to go to the respective sports councils or sport governing bodies to agree volunteer programmes but I do think it is something worth exploring.”

David is also well aware of the change to the role of many groundsmen and women at that elite end.

“Groudscare managers now have to be so flexible. Not only have they to prepare surfaces which are scrutinised on TV and often criticised by players, past and present – when often it is as a result of bad play not bad surfaces – and then have to move seamlessly into preparing a stadium for an arena concert.

“They are working incredibly long hours, late into the night, and sometimes overnight to ensure that concerns booked by the commercial department are a success. I don’t think there is enough recognition for how much effort goes into it all.”

David was appointed to the Board as an independent member nine years ago after he had carried out some consultancy work for the IOG’s Chief Executive Geoff Webb in 2005.

“I also did a study in 2007 in which I called groundsmanship the hidden profession. I was basically saying that there was great work being done and some really good people involved but that they didn’t really have any profile at all.

“In 2010 Geoff asked me to join the Board and I have been really pleased that I accepted his offer because it has been quite an eventful time over the last eight or nine years and the organisation has made really good progress.”

Much of that progress can be seen with the success of the move of Saltex to the NEC in Birmingham, a move that David was involved heavily.

“We agonised about it for quite a long time to be frank but we knew that Windsor was staring to fail and that the status quo was not going to work. We had to shake it up and do something, and we’ve had a successful four years so far.

“The key is for us to keep the Show fresh and innovative, introduce new things and new thinking and we will try to keep it going for strength to strength. Fortunately, we have some good thinkers around the table and people who feed in good ideas and Geoff himself is very good on that front.”

David was elected Chair at the IOG’s AGM in September and firmly believes that progress will be made.

“I feel that I am taking over at quite a good time with regard to where we’ve managed to get to but we must lift the bar higher. We must push forward. For example, we have just appointed an agency to work with us with the aim of lifting the profile of the industry. Their work will not be launched until next spring but we are working very hard behind the scenes with the agency and I see this as the next stage of our challenge.”

Life is full of challenges but if you have a carpenter at the heart of things you can be sure of stability and a well-constructed future.

Mower Man Gets Wembley Invite

Mower Man Gets Wembley Invite: A grass cutter whose efforts in creating a pitch “fit for Wembley” for children has been invited to cut the stadium’s pitch for real.

A tweet Jimmy Broadhouse shared of his work at a council field in Bilbrook, near Wolverhampton, has been seen almost three million times.

Mower Man Gets Wembley Invite

It also caught the attention of Wembley’s head groundsman, who sent an invite to Mr Broadhouse, known as Jimmy the Mower, on Twitter.

“It is amazing,” Mr Broadhouse said.

“Isn’t it every groundsman’s dream?”

Karl Standley, the Wembley head groundsman who sent the message, has been approached for comment.

But in the exchange with Mr Broadhouse, he said he was “100% serious” about the offer.

Mr Broadhouse, from Ditton Priors, who runs Ditton Services, added he would “try to sort it for August when the mowing has slowed down a bit”.

“I’m working seven days a week at the moment so it is just trying to find a time when I can get down there, but it is fantastic.”

“When I saw the message I was so excited, I could hardly sleep.”

The original post was massive with more than 43,000 likes and three million views.

Many people also shared their own proud photos of finely manicured turf.

Jimmy was deluged with comments and even offers of work.

“It’s been really great,” he said.

“It has been so positive and uplifting, I’m really happy.

“And it really highlights how much these parks and open spaces mean to everyone.”

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Toro Fleet At Man City

Toro Fleet At Man City: Manchester City’s Football Academy in the heart of East Manchester has chosen Toro again as it updates its fleet.

The supply of six Reelmaster 3575-D lightweight mowers continues a relationship with Cheshire Turf Machinery and Toro which spans 20 years.

Toro Fleet at Man City

For use across the 80 acres of grounds adjacent to the Etihad Stadium which is used for youth development and first team training, head groundsperson Lee Metcalfe has chosen Toro and the Reelmaster 3575-D mowers to replace its older Toro Reelmaster 5510-D machines.

“We needed to replace the RM5510-D fleet as they had a high number of hours on them,” he says. “This time we opted for the three-wheel RM3575-D mowers, so we wouldn’t have as much impact on the pitches. It’s been a wet winter and we felt this would deliver a better result considering the conditions.”

The RM3575-D machines are lightweight – just 2550lbs including the cutting units – and the front-to-back and side-to-side balance of weight produces a low centre of gravity which, when combined with turf-friendly tyres, reduces any potential turf compaction and damage.

The three-wheel drive system of the new machines will also help with the tight turns at the end of the pitches, says Lee: “These machines are easy to use and with the tight turn areas we have three wheels work very well. Cut is set at 30mm for the academy pitches and at 23mm for the first team pitches. Maintenance is daily by the MCFC staff and a couple of technicians from Cheshire Turf Machinery come out every Monday to check and maintain the machines too.”

The relationship between Manchester City and Cheshire Turf Machinery is almost two decades long as managing director Steve Halley explains: “We’ve worked with Manchester City Football Club for around 20 years, with Lee and grounds manager Roy Rigby. It’s our understanding that reliability of the brand is key and we trust that our support and the longevity of our relationship is too.

“This latest order addresses the club’s constant drive to improve turf quality without sacrificing productivity. As Lee says the three wheel configuration makes the machine very agile and means the team can make tight turns without damaging the turf.”

With the surfaces of the Academy taken care of, Lee, who has been at MCFC for 10 years and manages a team of 13, tells us what’s next: “We are always focused on how we can keep developing the grounds area and team. I’m constantly looking to see what the latest innovations are in terms of machinery and when it comes to our team, these are the people of the future. Everyone in the team is willing to learn and move forward which is very encouraging to see. They question things and attend many training courses to make them all better groundspeople.”

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The Man Who Beat The Beast

The Man Who Beat The Beast: When most of us were tucked up in bed, with the heating blasting and dreaming about what we were going to do with our football-free Saturday, Cambridge United stadium manager Ian Darler had other ideas.

In depths of the night, the stadium manager travelled to the Abbey, flicked on one floodlight and got to work.

The Man Who Beat The Beast

It was 4 a.m.

Heading towards his 40-year anniversary with the club, when we caught up with him just before kick off he seemed unfazed by not only the 3 am start that morning but also even getting the game on, despite it being only one of 10 to beat the ‘Beast from the East.’

“It would have been very easy to turn a blind eye and the game would have been off,” he said.

“But I just think you just do your duty. It’s your professional pride at the end of the day.”

Indeed, Darler and his team – made up of a dozen or so volunteers from CFU and his fishing friends – had a long-term plan to ensure the game went ahead.

The pitches had been covered for nine days but the freezing conditions were still proving too much for them to deal with as temperatures dropped to as low as minus-11 with windchil.

And a bit of ingenuity – from using a customised plough to getting the snow to act as an incubator – meant there was very little danger of the game being called off in the end.

 “To be honest getting the game on wasn’t the challenge,” he said.

“We’ve have had had pitch covers on for nine days as I always work to a 10-14 day programme.

“Apparently I came in for a bit of criticism on social media because I took the sheets of yesterday but I could see quite clearly the actual pitch was frozen and the covers were insulating the frost on the ground.

“We saw snow was coming and that it was likely to climb to zero. Obviously zero from minus six, minus seven is a massive thaw so the troops came in yesterday for me, we got all the sheets off and blew the layers of snow off and I was praying for the snow last night as I’ve used the snow as a incubator previously.

“Got up this morning about 3.30 am and went outside and saw it was 0.5 degrees and thought, ‘happy days!”

“I got in here, put one floodlight on, cracked on and by time the safety officer turned up all I had was about 25% of one corner to do.”

His efforts were recognised and he was, along with the other volunteers, named the man of the match during the U’s 1-1 draw with Luton Town.

And as Darler said, it would have been easy to let this game slip away like a majority of those in the Football League did.

And that’s is what is most impressive about this all. It took a lot of hard work, a lot of heart and shows how much people really do care about the club, and Darler, who has a book coming out about his 40 years working in football, was quick to thank all those involved.

“I have got the most amazing team of ground staff, which is made up by stewards who have worked for me for over 30 years,” he said

“They just appear like the borrowers and then a load of fishing mates come out the woodwork to bail me out.

“Because they’ve worked with me for so long I don’t have to tell them, they know what the process is.

“12, 14 people showed up in the end and six, seven were from CFU and seven or eight are my friends.

“I’m a fisherman, I’m used to going out a three o’clock in the morning!

“It’s a nice end. I’ve been quite fortunate had a publisher come forward and I’m having a book out about forty years working within the football world.

He added: “These days are great. It just gives you the opportunity to I’m just as keen now as I was 40 years ago. It’s always a challenge.

“I just love the challenge.”

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