The majority of GMA members recently surveyed say they want Britain to exit the European Union, with 62 per cent of respondents saying the nation should vote to leave EU membership while 38 per cent said we should stay. From the 577 responses to the online survey – in which GMA members were asked ‘Should the UK stay within the EU?’ and ‘How do you think a decision to leave the EU could affect your role in groundsmanship?’, a number of respondents added some interesting comments.
While some pointed out that in their view “not enough clear information has been provided to the voting public to make a considered decision”, many others were “not sure” of the consequences of leaving and some said they thought that a vote to exit would have “absolutely no affect” on their role.
One opinion that came through loud and clear, however, was the view that leaving the EU would mean “a lot less legislation to worry about” – though one green spaces manager suggested “we could lose EU legislation that protects the environment” and a finance officer said that EU trade agreements actually help to minimise bureaucracy and that an exit would make trade more difficult”. In addition, there was also a body of opinion that costs would rise.
Vote to leave
Those who suggested we leave the EU expounded thoughts of “reduced legislation and bureaucracy”, particularly surrounding the use of pesticides. One consultant commented: “I think we are perfectly capable of policing the use of chemicals and fertilisers. We have BASIS, GMA and BIGGA, for example,which could help. We are all aware ofthe consequences with the over-useof fertilisers and chemicals – we do notneed the EU.”
According to a head groundsman: “It would be interesting to see what controls are levelled on chemicals as Europe seems to be blamed for the loss of many chemicals that were regularly used by groundsmen.” A deputy head greenkeeper said “we could get a more relaxed approach to fungicides and pesticides”, while a volunteer groundsman added: “It would mean UK control over the turf care industry, in which the UK has more interest than most, if not all, EU member states.This would mean that industry is more likely to have a greater influence on decisions which affect it, for example the control of pesticides.” Another volunteer groundsman said that “hopefully, British laws would allow use of chemicals that are now banned, which were better than products currently on the market”.
A commentator from the golf sector said: “I believe an independent England will be fiscally better off. Individuals will be wealthier and they will have more available funds for leisure activities”. He added: “There would be less moronic edicts coming out of Brussels dictating environmental policies which impact on our day-to-day operations.”
A number of respondents – groundsmen and contractors - say that an exit from Europe “will not affect my role”, with one involved in the supervision of contracts commenting “it would allow me to do more with less worry about paperwork”.
One estates manager, who suggests leaving the EU, said “while this could possibly limit the amount of collaborative research, which enhances our understanding of management techniques, this may be replaced by new ventures with non-traditional partners such as Chinese universities or organisations”.
Among those who voted to stay in, one grounds manager suggested “if we leave it would mean that it would be less likely to share information” – a trait commented on by a training expert: “The level of excellence of groundsmanship in the UK is penetrating Europe and if we leave the EU then the transfer of knowledge will be much more difficult.”
Those involved in machinery manufacture and supply generally suggested it would be better to stay in; one equipment importer said an exit “would increase the volatility of currency” while another expressed concerns over the supply of components currently sourced Europe, saying increased costs (via higher duties, for example) would have to be passed on to customers. However, one dealer commented that the effects of leaving “would be marginal as we get our machines and parts from UK distributors”.
A greenkeeper pointed out: “Not a single piece of machinery I use is made in the UK - golf is an international industry and to leave the EU would be industrial suicide.” Added an assistant groundsman: “The cost of materials would increase and so, too, would the cost of living which I fear would make the cost of cricket too much for some participants.”
In addition, one groundsman suggested “increased economic uncertainty could lead to many job losses which would put more pressure on groundscare teams who may lose staff as a result of the economic uncertainty and possible economic downturn. This could have a big impact on industry standards”.
According to one grounds manager: “If we leave the EU it may make the UK more isolated and that in turn will slow the economy, and leisure will be the first to be cut back.” Another, in a similar role, reckoned: “I think my job would go on but the country at large would suffer through the breakdown of various trade deals, which could affect my job.”
Machine manufacturers are clearly concerned, with comments such as “we trade extensively in the EU so it could be an issue if we have to negotiate trade agreements to sell our products there” from one company, and “export sales would be seriously damaged if we leave”, from another. That said, one manufacturer commented: “We believe that leaving the EU would have no impact on our sales to the EU and it would also allow us to tap new markets outside the EU without restrictions.”
The fear surrounding the potential of rising costs was clearly evident in the pro-Europe camp, with one equipment manufacturer saying that “adverse foreign exchange due to a weakening pound is already causing pricing challenges on European exports”. One machinery supplier said “a ‘no’ vote would depress the economy – definitely in the short term but also, possibly, in the longer term - and that will affect spending, which will lead to less business”. Said one grounds manager: “The uncertainty of life outside the community could create difficulties in the supply chain (of machinery, materials and the transfer of knowledge), not only in terms of prices but also in availability and after-care.”
Interestingly, education was also highlighted as a possible casualty if Britain left the EU: “There could be an impact on the transferability of qualifications,” said one respondent, “along with a reduced drive for continuously improving health and safety in the workplace, plus a negative impact on our approach to sustainability, weakening environmental controls and less control of pesticide use.”
An assessor of apprentices added: “I would be worried about continued government cuts to education/training funding, which could lead to less opportunities for young people to get into the careers they want. I am also concerned about the direction the government would take with regard to workers’ rights. Working in the education system I always feel that we are just one policy change away from unemployment as it is!
Life goes on
While one groundsman perhaps sums up what the nation thinks by saying “my mind is not made up because nobody has presented a simple ‘advantages/disadvantages’ argument to leaving or staying in the EU”, another groundsman said life will go on: “The grass will continue to grow and UK groundsmen will continue to produce the best surfaces in the world.”