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GaNTIP programme reports another year of progress

GaNTIP programme reports another year of progress: New statistics show that the pitch improvement strategy instigated by the Premier League, The Football Association, the Government’s Football Foundation, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) continues to have a massive impact on football and cricket participation in England.

The organisations’ joint Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme (GaNTIP), which is funded by the Football Foundation and ECB, and led by the IOG, seeks to raise the quality of natural turf pitches to enhance player experience and increase capacity and participation levels.

GaNTIP programme reports another year of progress

And with over 2,890 pitches assessed by GaNTIP regional pitch advisors between April 2018 and March 2019, the results continue to impress, in terms of football, having:

  • Boosted pitch match capacity by 28% – from an average of 2.5 games per pitch to 3.2;
  • Reduced postponements by 24%;
  • Increased pitch quality levels – 83% of the 2,890 pitches assessed have improved; and
  • Engaged with 1,082 volunteers, of whom 192 have received training to boost knowledge levels and improve their pitch maintenance techniques. Indeed, the programme has engaged with volunteer time valued at over £3 million (if their time/value were calculated), based on minimum wage and average number of hours contributed (most volunteers work six-10 hours a week).

This, in turn, has enabled more than four million players to enjoy the game – calculated using 9 versus 9 pitches over a 40-week season; 18 players plus officials x 2,890 pitches and two games per week/weekend.

In order to increase pitch capacity, GaNTIP’s work with grassroots football has also involved the development of The Football Foundation Groundskeeping Community – a platform to provide expert advice to grounds staff – the development  of a digital pitch assessment tool and the implementation of online modules (via the IOG website), as well as ‘traditional’ attendance courses/modules to support Football Foundation funding criteria.

Interestingly, GaNTIP’s inspections reveal that 82% of the pitches tested had below standard levels of compaction. “A common issue throughout GaNTIP’s history,” says IOG director of technical & learning Jason Booth, who is responsible for GaNTIP.

In addition, in collaboration with the ECB to develop and initiate a structured approach for local grounds staff, GaNTIP has:

  • Serviced 38 County Cricket Boards and 38 County Grounds Associations/support groups, working with nine ECB Regional Club and Facilities managers to develop and deliver plans locally;
  • Revitalised the County Pitch Advisor programme by supporting more than 70 Advisors;
  • Developed a ‘toolbox’ to enable County Pitch Advisors and County Cricket Boards deliver a consistent approach to support;
  • Trained 233 delegates (via the IOG’s online and day attendance cricket courses); and
  • Assisted and developed the ECB’s new junior format for pitch sizes.

GaNTIP is monitored and supported by Sport England and the programme is now in year three (April 2019-March 2020) of Phase 2 (Phase 1 was 2014-2017) with two key account managers – Tom Rowley for football and Ian Mather-Brewster for cricket.

Jason Booth points out that the programme continues to increase awareness of the importance of the sustainability of natural turf pitches and hopes to invigorate more education and learning over the next 12 months.

“The programme is successfully achieving its aims of improving grassroots pitch quality and the education of the people who maintain those pitches, enabling the national governing bodies (NGBs) of football and cricket to provide clear direction on their grass pitch strategies,” he says.

“GaNTIP is making great strides and the programme and its RPAs are regarded as an integral part of the strategies of the NGBs currently within the programme. But the implications and benefits of GaNTIP could – and should – impact all grass sports and it is reassuring that other NGBs are monitoring our progress and showing great interest in what has been achieved and what GaNTIP could contribute to their sports.”

He adds: “Importantly, GaNTIP is also providing the grassroots and volunteer community with access to unrivalled training and education, which is proving indispensable in terms of pitch care. The programme is working hard with the NGBs and stakeholders to align volunteer training with the likes of coaching, because playing surfaces are equally as critical to participation levels.”

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College Reports Excellent Results From ICL

College Reports Excellent Results From ICL: Radley College in Abingdon, Oxfordshire has reported excellent results from ICL, with Grounds Manager Adam King saying the ProTurf and Vitalnova Stressbuster have helped him improve the health and presentation of the school’s range of sports pitches.

Adam has been at Radley for 17 years, and is responsible for the maintenance of the huge 800 acre site which includes a tenanted farm and a 9-hole golf course as well as the numerous natural and synthetic pitches. Sports played at the College include rugby in the Michaelmas Term, hockey, rowing and football in the Lent Term and cricket, rowing, lawn tennis and athletics in the Summer Term.

College Reports Excellent Results From ICL

“We have 694 boys at Radley and sport is a major part of their life,” says Adam. “The campus is incredibly busy and the pitches are in use all-year round. We host 26 rugby teams, 16 football teams, 22 hockey teams and 24 cricket teams each year.”

Adam has a large team to help him with the mammoth work required to keep the facilities to the impeccable standards expected by Radley College. There is a total of 18 grounds staff including Adam, which consists of eight groundsmen, two greenkeepers and seven gardeners.

The team has strict maintenance procedures in place and, according to Adam, ICL products play an integral role.

“I have a long history with ICL and I have always found the products to provide consistent results.

“What I like about ICL is that, as a company, they are always looking ahead, always developing new products and adding to the stable of quality products. For what we need to do and what we need to achieve at Radley, no matter what the time of year – whether it is relieving turf stress or making grass grow, whatever you need ICL has, and you know that the products perform as you would expect.”

Adam applies ProTurf 15-5-15+2CaO+2MgO in readiness for a busy period of winter sports in which the potassium element can help pre-condition the turf for intensive play and the inevitable harsh weather.

“ProTurf is applied in early August so the grass surfaces are actively growing for the start of the season. The one thing we work on really hard here is recovery – for as long as we can. As long as the soil temperatures are there and the moisture levels are there, we want the grass to keep growing because we have 14 weeks of rugby followed by 12 weeks of football. We all know that by the time we get to January or February the recovery rates are minimal so if we can keep it growing up until Christmas then we will and this is where ProTurf really helps.”

College Reports Excellent Results From ICL

ProTurf contains a combination of Poly-S controlled-release fertilizer technology, readily available urea Nitrogen, and Polyhalite, a naturally occurring mineral sourced from ICL’s Cleveland Potash mine.

The Poly-S technology gives consistent, regular growth over a 2-3 month period without growth peaks while the uncoated Nitrogen portion provides an immediate turf response, even in cooler conditions. Polyhalite contains four macro-nutrients – Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium and Sulphur. Potassium is required for the process of energy transfer, especially photosynthesis and the breakdown of carbohydrates.

“We base feed with ProTurf,” Adam continues, “and then top up with liquid irons and Sportsmaster WSF SeaMax (a soluble seaweed concentrate) along with Vitalnova Stressbuster – which is a product I would use absolutely everywhere if I could.”

Vitalnova Stressbuster is a unique liquid formulation which pre-conditions turf against stress and helps generate a quick recovery. Featuring iron which provides an instant colour, Stressbuster also contains a unique combination of macro and micro nutrients, wetting agents, bio-stimulants and amino acids.

“Stressbuster is a lovely cocktail of everything you require which gives you a superb result. It contains iron, bio-stimulants, a little bit of sugar, some nitrogen – all of which encourage recovery. Colour-wise I would say we get about 21 days out of it and you get an instant colour-up overnight which is perfect when we apply before a game. It can also be complimented with some Primo Maxx II growth regulator.

“Ultimately Stressbuster is helping us to produce a tightly knit sward that keeps its colour and sends as many roots down as possible. That’s what it is all about in winter sports – with rugby and football it is all about traction so it is important that you have the right products in place.”

It’s not just the products that Adam and his team get great results from: “Emma Kilby (ICLTechnical Area Sales Manager), who I’ve known for many years, is an invaluable person to talk to ensuring that we have the best possible nutritional programme in place,” says Adam.

Please contact ICL on 01473 237100 or visit www.icl-sf.co.uk or www.icl-sf.ie if you are in Ireland.

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