Almost 700 of the UK’s and Europe’s leading groundscare experts from both the professional and volunteer sector, as well as dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators, have honoured the expertise, dedication and passion of the grounds profession at the Grounds Management Association (GMA) annual Industry Awards.
Now in its ninth year, the sell-out event at the National Conference Centre, within the National Motorcycle Museum and hosted by talkSPORT radio presenter Mark Saggers, recognised leadership, innovation and outstanding achievement across every aspect of groundscare – from grassroots pitches to professional stadia.
The prestigious awards ceremony also celebrated the quality standards of groundscare achieved in public and private sports venues, and highlighted the progress of young/student grounds professionals as well as entrants’ environmental considerations.
From a record-breaking entry, the winners of the 2017 GMA Industry Awards are:
Bowling Greenkeeper/Team of the Year
Potters Bar Bowls Club, Hertfordshire
Husband and wife duo Rod Smale, 72, and 69-year-old Sandra took over maintenance of the six-rink green in 2014 after the committee said: “The green is getting worse each year – can you improve it?”
Best Maintained Artificial Pitch of the Year
Highfields Sports Complex - The University of Nottingham
Nottingham University has five artificial playing surfaces and five members of the grounds team are fully trained to maintain the sand-based, 3G rubber crumb and water-based surfaces.
Ransomes Environmental/Innovative Project of the Year
Forest Green Rovers FC
The club adopts a ‘green’ policy of pitch care by, for example, not using herbicides, pesticides or fungicides, as well utilising a robotic mower powered by 100 per cent green electricity and using GPS technology to automatically mow the pitch. The club implemented the Eco-Management and Audit qualification (achieved in 2012 – a first in the football world), the gold standard in environmental performance.
Toro Most Promising Sports Turf Student of the Year
Tara Massey, Manchester City FC
Tara, an apprentice at Manchester City’s Football Academy (CFA), is a Level 2 student and, according to her tutor, “her level of understanding is nothing short of astonishing. The level of knowledge answers within her portfolio of evidence is more comparable to Level 3 and 4 work, and something that should be highly commended.” She completed the Level 2 programme in record time and now is looking to start the Level 3 programme.
Redexim Charterhouse/Kubota Volunteer Sports Groundsman/Team of the Year
Philip Swann from the Bridge Trust Society, Birmingham
Philip took over as groundsman of the 7.5-acre sports ground seven years ago with, he adds, “another equally inexperienced volunteer”. Since then, whenever a member of the club retires, they are recruited to join Philip’s team. The team is charged with the upkeep of the site including maintaining the clubhouse, two pavilions, the score box and a garage, in addition to two football pitches, a cricket square and nets plus two five-a-side training pitches.
National Governing Bodies Grassroots Sports Grounds Team of the Year
NPL Sports Club, Teddington, Middlesex
The standard of playing surfaces at the six-hectare NPL site has steadily been improved over the years. The site accommodates a host of sports – two cricket squares (one of 18 strips, the other with eight strips), five grass tennis courts, a bowling rink and two cricket outfields, while in winter the field is used mainly for football. Other facilities include a sand-filled artificial surface for tennis and two synthetic cricket nets.
This category is co-sponsored by the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club), ECB (the England and Wales Cricket Board), The FA (Football Association), The LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), the Premier League, the RFL (Rugby Football League) and the RFU (Rugby Football Union).
Headland Amenity Professional Cricket Grounds Team of the Year
The Durham CCC grounds team ensures the Emirates Riverside Stadium pitch is maintained and presented as an international cricket ground. With this in mind, records are kept of the moisture content and hardness of every match pitch; also, a daily record is kept of all work undertaken on the pitch, and of daily temperatures and rainfall. The grounds team is also charged with overseeing the development and build of a new second XI pitch adjacent to the stadium.
CubCadet Infinicut Professional Tennis Grounds Team of the Year
Nottingham Tennis Centre
The tennis centre’s grounds team is responsible for the day-to-day management of 13 international grass courts, eight indoor and 19 outdoor courts, as well as changing areas, outside toilets and various soft landscaped areas. The team also facilitates site dressing including bannering and floral/arboreal/horticultural displays during tournaments, and works with the local and national media to promote the facility.
SGL Professional Football Grounds Team or the Year (Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier League)
Leicester City FC
The 10-strong LCFC grounds team is responsible for the management of all sports turf surfaces and surrounding landscapes of The King Power Stadium, the Belvoir Drive training facility, the Holmes Park LRCFA HQ (under 23s venue) and the OHL FC (Belgium) site. Every member of the team contributes to the effectiveness of the department, from the grounds manager who plans and sets the strategies for the team members who log the hours of use, weather, machinery and operations diaries.
SISGrass Professional Football Grounds Team of the Year (English Leagues 1 & 2, National, National North/South, Scottish Championship & Leagues 1 & 2, Ireland & Wales Professional Leagues)
Bury FC, Greater Manchester
Bury FC’s four-strong grounds team is charged with managing a total of 45 acres, including The Energy Check Stadium pitch, six pitches and accompanying shrub and flower bed areas at the Carrington training ground, plus 20 acres of 12 soil-based pitches at the nearby Goshen Community Sports Facility.
John Deere Professional Horse Racing Grounds Team of the Year
The four-strong grounds team at Ripon Racecourse work consistently to produce a racing surface that is fast, good/good to firm for every race. As part of this expert care, independent agronomy reports have shown that the turf management process has improved. In addition to the track, the team also maintains 210 acres of open space, car parks, woodland, lakes and buildings, which accommodate varied use.
Mansfield Sand Professional Rugby Football League Grounds Team of the Year
Castleford Tigers, West Yorkshire
The grounds team is dedicated to producing top-class playing surfaces at both the stadium and on the training field, undertaking everything possible to ensure high pitch standards. Recent upgrades to the machinery and equipment used has played a big role in improving the presentation of the stadium pitch, but regular verti-draining and a consistent fertilisation programme have also helped.
GrassMaster Professional Rugby Football Union Grounds Team of the Year
Yorkshire Carnegie (Leeds Rugby)
The four-strong Leeds Rugby grounds team maintains the stadium and training pitches for both Leeds Rhinos (rugby league) and the Yorkshire Carnegie (rugby union) teams, including the Kirkstall Academy ground (two natural turf pitches and a synthetic surface), the Abbey Fields training area (four turf pitches) and the pitch at Stanningley ARLFC. The ongoing quest is to consistently produce the best playing surfaces possible within budget.
National Governing Bodies Professional Sports Grounds Team of the Year
Manchester City FC
In addition to the stadium pitch, the MCFC team (18 full-time staff plus 12 causal staff who cover holidays etc) is also charged with the maintenance and upkeep of 17.5 full-size playing surfaces at the adjacent City Football Academy, which includes artificial surfaces.
This category co-sponsored by the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club), ECB (the England and Wales Cricket Board), The FA (Football Association), The LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), the Premier League, the RFL (Rugby Football League) and the RFU (Rugby Football Union).
Rigby Taylor/Top Green Young Groundsman of the Year
James Wood, Manchester City FC
An assistant groundsman at MCFC, James joined the club in 2013 after a period at Lancashire County Cricket Club. He gained the National Diploma in Sports Turf, with Distinction, simultaneously also collecting the Ransomes Jacobson Turf Machinery Practical Award for his hard work and dedication. In addition, he has also undertaken a number of safety courses and is an advanced first aider. He is currently enrolled on an GMA Level 4 course – Professional Certificate in Turf Surface Management.
Growth Products Independent School/University/College Grounds Team of the Year
University of Surrey
Five of the 16-strong grounds team at the University are focused on maintaining the sports surfaces at site, which runs to more than 400 acres. Their remit covers 10 grass football/rugby pitches, eight tennis courts, three artificial surfaces, including a 3G football pitch, two netball courts and a two-lane 40-metre sprint track.
Private Members Sports Club Grounds Team of the Year
The Queen's Club, London
The Queen’s Club team’s main responsibilities revolve around maintaining the 45 multi-surface tennis courts on the West Kensington site, though they also look after the general maintenance on other outdoor facilities including hedges, gardens and the club’s infrastructure.
Contractor of the Year
Premier Pitches, Sheffield
The company works at all levels of the game, specialising in end-of-season renovations and pitch reconstructions while also undertaking maintenance work such as aeration, fertilisation, seeding and spraying. The aim, it says, is to create the very best playing surface and to enhance the standards that can be expected from natural grass pitches.
International Ambassador of the Year
Simon Gumbrill, Stadium Grow Lighting
Simon is a well-known and respected member of the turf industry, having worked for many years with Richard Campey and latterly for SGL. Simon is a leading advocate of the turf profession, delivering high level professional presentations to many professional grounds teams throughout the UK and USA especially, but wherever his role takes him.
Special Recognition Award (Professional Category)
Paul Burgess, Real Madrid C.F.
Paul captured the industry’s imagination of what UK groundsmen can achieve when after beginning his career in Blackpool, he moved to Arsenal then was appointed head groundsman for Real Madrid.
Since then, he has welcomed a continual stream of visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and to the club’s extensive training grounds, and it is fair to say that he has always talked openly about his role and about the industry.
Special Recognition Award (Volunteer Category)
Peter Green, Honley Cricket Club, Holmfirth, Huddersfield
Peter has spent the past 50 years leading the groundscare routines at Honley Cricket Ground and through his efforts the ground is now considered one of the best in the Huddersfield cricket league.
He has won the league’s annual groundsman award five times, and has been awarded a prestigious lifetime award for services to the league and to the club.
The Alex R Millar Ransomes/DLF Johnsons Groundsman of the Year (acknowledging the role of an individual groundsman from within all the relevant professional grounds team award categories)
Vic Demain, Durham CCC
Vic was appointed head groundsman at Durham County Cricket Club in 2015, following two years as deputy head groundsman at Trent Bridge and before that seven years as head groundsman at Uxbridge CC. His professionalism is recognised not only in cricket but also throughout the industry.
Martin has for the past 11 years worked with England & Wales Cricket Board to drive improvements in pitch quality across the recreational game.
While dedicating much of his time to working with Premier Leagues and the network of ECB County Pitch Advisors, he has also supported numerous research and development projects to improve playing surfaces.
Importantly, Martin has been instrumental in developing Performance Quality Standards for playing surfaces – and he stands alone in bringing them to life not only in cricket but also, now increasingly in other sports, too.
His legacy for the game of cricket alone is a tangible enhancement of knowledge and practical skills for thousands of willing volunteers, who will now be tending higher quality pitches for the next generation of cricketers.
The 2017 GMA Industry Awards are sponsored by the AELTC, CubCadet Infinicut, DLF, ECB, The FA, GrassMaster, Growth Products, Headland Amenity, John Deere, Johnsons Seeds, Kubota, the LTA, Mansfield Sand, the Premier League, Ransomes, Redexim Charterhouse, the RFL, the RFU, Rigby Taylor, SGL, SISGrass, Toro and Top Green.
To watch the 2017 highlights video, click here