Live at Leeds

Laurence Gale MScin Cricket

AerialView.jpgWith a fiercely proud County cricket side, two top teams playing both codes of rugby, and Leeds United FC, the city of Leeds has a sporting heritage second to none in the UK.

Home to much of this activity is Headingley Carnegie. Cricket and rugby are played here at the dual stadiums on the site, with Leeds United playing 'across town' at Elland Road.

Headingley is perhaps best known for its cricket. The list of former players is like a who's who of the game; Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton, Fiery Fred Truman, Geoff Boycott and, in recent years, former England captain Michael Vaughan along with Matthew Hoggard, Ryan Sidebottom (now at Notts) and, of course, the enigmatic Darren Gough, currently captain of the Yorkshire team.

It is said that a strong Yorkshire means a strong England, and it is hard to argue with that statement.

The two rugby codes sit happily alongside the cricket and they too can boast well known names and not inconsiderable success.

The Rhinos have twice won the World Super Cup and the Super League. Former players have included Elery Hanley MBE, Barrie McDermott (now with Sky TV) and Garry Schofield OBE.

Leeds Carnegie RUFC (formerly the Tykes) are now back in the Premiership. Iain Balshaw, Simon Easterby and Roland de Marigny have all graced the Carnegie turf.

The pressures of maintaining the turf at these stadiums, very often in the full glare of watching millions on TV, falls on two experienced Head Groundsmen, Andy Fogarty, who looks after the cricket facility, and Jason Booth, current RFL Groundsman of the Year, at the rugby stadium.

Our editor, Laurence Gale MSc, joined them as they respectively prepared for a Twenty20 'Roses' clash and the visit of St. Helens to play the Rhinos, a game that was shown 'Live at Leeds' on Sky Sports.

Yorkshire take on Lancashire in a Twenty20 'Roses' clash in front of 8,000 spectators at Headingley ... and it's raining!

I arrived at the Headingley Carnegie cricket ground at 7.30am, after a two-hour drive from Shropshire, to find Andy Fogarty and his staff getting ready for the War of the Roses Twenty20 match between Yorkshire Carnegie and Lancashire Lightning.AndyFoggerty.jpg

The weather forecast was awful with light rain predicted for the morning followed by heavy showers in the evening. Not ideal for getting a game of cricket played!

And so it was that we spent much of the morning watching light rain fall and drinking cups of tea. The wicket and square were well protected with raised covers and flat sheets, most of the preparation work had been completed in the week leading up to the match.

There are four large sheets and two run up sheets to help cover the whole square. The flat sheet covers are made locally and measure 100ft x 40ft, with run up covers measuring 50ft x 50ft.

The outfield and square had been cut on the previous Tuesday along with final wicket preparations (mowing brushing, rolling and marking out). All there was left to do on the day, fortunately given the weather, was a final roll, clean up, touch up of the lines and setting out the stumps.

Andy has been Head Groundsman at Headingley for eleven years. He has two full time staff to help him, his assistant Christian Dunkerley, who has been at the club for ten years, and Gareth Milthorpe, who has seven year's service. On match days Andy's son often comes in and helps out, a useful extra pair of hands, especially when having to move covers on and off!

022Groundstaff.jpgThe square at Headingley has sixteen tracks constructed with Ongar Loam. In addition there are another four practice tracks at either end of the square. Andy has to get at least two matches per track. This season he will have two international matches, six four day county games, three second eleven matches and thirteen one dayers.

As always the quality of the square is dependant on the success of the previous winter's renovations. The square was scarified in four directions to a depth of between 3-4mm and overseeded and topdressed with 4 bags of Ongar Loam per pitch. The seed used was a 50/50 perennial rye grass mix using Sauvignon and Margarita. A programme of aeration was undertaken after November and completed in January.

The square is maintained at 25mm, with tracks cut to a height of 15mm at the beginning of the 10-14 day prep for matches. Final height of cut is between 3-4mm using Lloyds Paladins.

Andy's equipment includes three Paladins for the square, two 36" Allett Regals for the outfield and two rollers, a 1.5 and 2.5 tonne for the square and wickets. He also uses a Sisis RotaRake and CombiRake for preparing the tracks and square.

Fortunately, with the weather as it is during my visit, he has two water removal machines, a Blotter and a Water Hog. Any other equipment is usually hired in or borrowed from Jason Booth at the Rugby Stadium.

07.30 - It's raining! I meet up with Andy, Gareth and Christian and am offered the first of many cups of tea! We sit and chat about this, that and the other for what seems an eternity. Two hours later it is still raining! 008Covers-Main.jpg
09.30 - Andy goes out to the middle to check that all is well with the covers. 051CheckingCovers.jpg
10.00 - It's still raining! Gareth and Christian set out the boundary rope for the game. 018BoundaryRope.jpg
11.00 - It's still raining. Christian paints the bails white - at least it's something to do other than drink tea! 044ChristianBails.jpg
12.00 - It's brightening up a bit. Black sheets are placed over sight screens and surrounds to facilitate the 'white' ball.
13.30 - Andy receives the pitch record sheet from the team manager and duly completes the form for the ECB.
14.00 - Players and team officials start arriving.
14.45 - Umpires Neil Bainton and John Holder have arrived, and it eventually stops raining. Andy and his team take off the covers to inspect pitch and square. The removal of covers is all about teamwork, especially with so much standing water lying about. Out comes the Blotter for its first outing of the day. 084RemovingCovers.jpg
15.00 - The umpires inspect the square and pitch and discuss the weather. It's summer! 179AndyWithUmpires.jpg
15.15 - Andy gets the roller out and gives the wicket a final roll. Gareth over marks lines and Christian sets the stump holes. 123AndyRolling.jpg
15.45 - It starts to rain again. Flat sheets and covers are hastily put back on.
16.00 - Out comes the Blotter again to keep the water on the flat sheets to a minimum. It is only one and a half hours before the game is due to start. 158BlotterCovers.jpg
16.15 - It stops raining. The umpires reinspect the pitch and outfield and all covers are finally removed in preparation for the start of the match. I am given the task of setting up the stumps and bails. (Good job the match is not being televised!) 202StumpsLoz.jpg
16.30 - Players begin warming up with drills and stretching.
17.15 - Yorkshire's skipper Darren Gough wins the toss and elects to bowl first. Umpires ask for a 15-minute delay. New start time is 17.45.
17.45 - Match begins and 'Hoggie' steams in, soon sending Lou Vincent back to the pavilion. 206Hoggie.jpg
18.30 - The rain returns and the umpires call for covers, The groundstaff are quick to respond but, within five minutes, the rain has stopped and play resumes as soon as the covers are removed.
19.10 - Lancashire score 150-6. Mal Loye top scores with 43. Andy and his staff carry out routine repairs to the wicket. This involves sweeping the wicket, remarking the crease lines and rolling. 226SweepingWicket.jpg
19.30 - Yorkshire begin their run chase. It's very dark as the lights on the scoreboard testify.

They race to 50 in the first 5 overs, but Lancashire begin to take control and slow their run rate down.
20.00 - It is looking increasingly gloomy, both for the home side and the weather. Andy and his team are ready to pounce at the umpires signal. 210WatchingWeather.jpg
20.30 - Light rain begins to fall but, with less than four overs remaining, the umpires keep the game going. Yorkshire manage to get back on target and in the final over require six off six. Captain Darren Gough, in his final playing season for his home county, manages to hit two fours in the final over and win the match for Yorkshire to the delight of 8000 plus spectators who came to watch.
20.45 - As soon as the match is finished the covers and flat sheets are put back on the playing surface and all the equipment is put away.
It has been a stop start sort of day, frustrating for all concerned. But the spectators will have been delighted at beating the old enemy.
Andy will be hoping for some more favourable weather for his next match, another Twenty20 game four days later against Durham.

Headingley Carnegie Stadium is the world-famous home of The Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Leeds Rhinos RLFC and Leeds Tykes RUFC. It has two separate grounds, with a two-sided stand housing common facilities.

Last year the Stadium was saved from possible closure to international test matches through a ground-breaking deal between Leeds City Council, Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Leeds Metropolitan University, which saw it renamed Headingley Carnegie Stadium; the university's sports faculty is known as the Carnegie School of Sport, Exercise and Physical Education. As one local resident commented, "Headingley without test matches would be like roast beef without Yorkshire pudding."

The capacity of the rugby ground currently stands at 17,700 whilst the new Carnegie Stand is being built to replace the old Eastern Terrace. The ground is shared by the world's first dual-code rugby partnership, Leeds Rugby Limited, which incorporates both the League-playing Rhinos and the Union-playing Tykes.

Headingley cricket ground adjoins the rugby stadium via a shared main stand. It has seen Test cricket since 1899 and has a capacity of 17,000.
Headingley spectators have been lucky enough to witness some of the greatest moments in cricket. Local boy and demon spinner, Hedley Verity, took 10 wickets for 10 runs in 1932 for Yorkshire v Nottinghamshire - a world record

Carnegie Stadium

173-MarkingMain.jpgPreparing for a top of the table clash between Leeds Rhinos and St. Helens, which will be screened live on Sky TV, brings unique challenges

When I returned to Headingley two days later to catch up with Jason Booth, he was preparing for the top of the table clash between Leeds Rhinos and St Helen.

Jason and his assistant, Kiel Barrett, had been mowing the pitch post to post, overseeing the logo painting and setting up the initial line marks for pitch lining.

Jason has been Head Groundsman at the club since 2001 and has improved the pitch to such an extent that it is now regarded as one of the best playing surfaces in both codes of rugby. It's remarkable feat when you consider that, because he has to cater for both codes, the playing seasons overlap leaving him with little or no clear period for traditional 'end of season' renovation works, quite simply because the seasons never end!

If he is lucky he may get a two-week window to carry out some renovation works but, usually, it is a case of getting as much work as possible completed in between matches.

Jason must have one of the most unique challenges in stadium groundsmanship as the 50-year-old soil based pitch has to provide well over 60 games and training sessions.203-Groundstaff.jpg

He has a staff of three to help him maintain both the stadium and training ground pitches - Kiel Barrett, Ryan Golding and Allan Wright.

Over the years they have continued to raise the standard of the pitch. They work very hard to ensure the pitch is at its best, both in performance and presentation, for every game. Having taken over from his mentor, the redoubtable Keith Boyce, the previous Head Groundsman, Jason is now highly respected by his peers, players and management staff.

It has not been easy and there are still many issues to face, particularly with the ground improvements earmarked for the future. New stands are to be built to increase crowd capacity. This alone will bring new problems with shade and air flow. However, his biggest decision is likely to be whether to upgrade the pitch to a sand based reinforced system or to keep his trusted soil based pitch, but with improved drainage.

Whatever decision he takes, the current condition of the Headingley Carnegie pitch is a credit to his commitment, dedication and drive.

07.00 - After a good night's sleep at the Headingley Lodge, overlooking the ground, I am up early to meet Jason.

We arrive at the stadium, check on the weather, inspect the pitch and, in particular, the logos. These, according to Jason, "are a pain in the preverbal bum!". They cover a huge area of grass and make mowing more difficult, especially during the winter months when they cause a lot of damage to the sward.

Jason has instructed the logo companies they can only hand paint the logos. This reduces the amount of paint getting into the base of the plant thereby helping it to recover more quickly. In an ideal world he would not have them at all, but the match is live on Sky Sports, so it is imperative that the pitch not only looks its best, but that the logos are on view.

Kick off is set for 7.30pm with a pre-match warm up game starting at 5.15 between Leeds Rhinos U21 and St Helens U21.

07.30 - Jason and Kiel begin double cutting of the pitch at a height of 25mm using their newly purchased 36" Ransomes Mastiffs nine bladed mowers. Logos are protected with boards. 020MowingFirstCut.jpg
09.00 - School leaver and occasional helper, Rob Jamieson, helps wash down post protectors and corner flags. 024-CleaningPostProtector.jpg
09.30 - First cut is completed and we all go for a spot of breakfast.
10.00 - Second cut resumes with a crossway cut using string lines for accuracy. Who is that man? 058-LozMowing.jpg

11.30 - Jason begins the first phase of line marking, marking the cross lines using his very own designed spray jet line marker supplied and manufactured by VFM Grassline.

Grassline's Steve Teale and Jason have being working on this machine for a couple of years now to improve its performance.
The machine has a larger capacity tank, pump and special spray jet frame, which enables Jason to choose a line width between 100-200mm. He likes nothing better than a bright line to help present his pitch, mixing a 2:1 strong ratio of water to paint. All lines are marked in two directions.

12.15 - Kiel and Rob mask out any bare areas with Groundsman's paint (grass cuttings). 149-MaskingClippings.jpg
13.30 - Jason finishes cross line marking and all staff head off for a well earned lunch. 132-LineMarking.jpg

14.00 - Jason marks out post to post lines. He always double checks the pitch from his favourite location high up in the commentary box. Viewing the pitch from on high helps identify any problems.

He finally finishes marking out at 3.30pm leaving Kiel to mark out the red 40 metre lines with aerosol paint.

16.00 - Jason liases with Sky Sports riggers to go through any last minute requirements. Players and officials start arriving.
16.30 - Jason introduces me to CEO, Gary Hetherington, who outlines the ethos of the club, the development of the facilities and, very importantly, the work the club does with the local community. 200-WithChairman.jpg
17.15 - The U21 game kicks off.

18.00 - Jason and staff get their tea in the cafetria.

The U21 game finishes and all groundstaff go out onto the pitch, including myself, to divot. Working between the ten metre bands we gradually manage to replace the divots, dodging between the pre-match warm up entertainment. For the next 40 minutes it is non stop activity with an opera singer, cheer leaders, a mixed junior rugby match, the club mascot stoking up the crowd and, finally, some fireworks when both teams run out. 228-Cheerleaders.jpg
19.30 - Game starts and the groundstaff make their way to the pitchside seating area, awaiting half time. 266-HalfTimeWaiting.jpg
20.10 - It's half time and all the groundstaff divot the pitch, again working around opera singers and cheerleaders.
21.15 - It's all over. The Rhinos lost 26-12 after having Nick Scruton sent off in the second half for a spear tackle.

21.20 - The groundstaff are back on pitch to replace divots. The whole pitch is completed by 10.30pm.

22.45 - Sky Sports reporter, Bill Arthur, commends Jason on how well the pitch looked and played. Jason's last job of the day is to check the mowers for sharpness, height of cut and fuel, ready for Kiel to mow the pitches the next day.

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