Seizing opportunity at Leicester City Football Club

Phil Helmnin Football

Leicester City moved into their breathtaking new £100m academy training ground on Christmas eve in 2019, after taking two years of construction on the 185-acre site in Seagrave.

The site also boasts The Sports Turf Academy, designed to educate the next generation of ground staff, ensuring Seagrave will be a pivotal part of the club’s operation for not only players but grounds staff for generations to come.

Role and responsibility

Deputy Head of Grounds, Callum (Cal) Allsop, began our chat by telling me about his start in the world of sports turf, which began sixteen years prior as a greenkeeper at Lutterworth golf club. “My new role brings me full circle,” explained Cal. “I now have responsibilities over the three sites we operate on, which are the King Power Stadium, Belvoir Drive and the new training facility in Seagrave. In my time at Leicester, I have always felt that all the work we put in across the whole operation culminates in that match day at the end of the week.”

The passion is clear as Cal explained, “I have always loved being involved in match days and that buzz you get seeing athletes perform on what our team produces. However, I primarily worked and then managed the operation at Belvoir Drive with a small team for five years before moving and playing a part in the build of the new training facility at Seagrave.”

Perhaps not quite so obvious is the fact the Seagrave training facility offers a nine-hole private golf course. Cal explained, “Seagrave has allowed me to re-visit my love for golf and greenkeeping, especially through the build phase. Being involved in irrigation install, reinstating creeping bent grass greens, constructing rivetted bunkers and constructing tees and a green from scratch was an opportunity I never thought I would get.” No mean feat when his ‘day job’ was primarily to deliver first class sports pitch surfaces across the site. “It’s been an amazing experience being involved in the construction of the Seagrave site,” he reminisced. “Witnessing the first steel go into the ground, play a part in the design of our storage facility and having input into our operational requirements has been fantastic.”

Cal has also played an integral part of building a machinery tender process and working with key stake holders within the club to deliver on operational demands. “I never would have dreamt that one day I would have helped build a 52 strong team looking after a multitude of sports turf pitches, a golf course, gardens, communal landscape areas and a workshop. I feel blessed to have worked with John Ledwidge (previous Head of Grounds), Simon Gibson (new Head of Grounds) and Jonathan Knowles (Head of Sports Turf Academy).”

Aspirational Leaders in Turf (A.L.I.T.)

For anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting The Academy, there is an overwhelming sense of passion for not only for the club but for the desire to learn and progress. The club’s values are Integrity, Ambition, Purpose and Success, and it flows through every level of the organisation. Cal explained, “I manage a team with a wide range of skillsets, from entry level to highly experienced. It’s been a huge learning curve for me, and we have all learnt valuable lessons. Not only with our operational programmes, but also with our people management.” He continued, “Skills can be taught, but passion must be the cornerstone of who we are. All our people have that drive to learn and it’s something we endeavour to continually improve.” 

To that end, the management team have developed an internal educational scheme to build on skills and knowledge of their people, enabling them to learn within the safety of their own environment. “We harness the knowledge of our suppliers, skilled team members and other sources of the industry to support our learning outcomes,” explained Cal. “Ultimately, our people benefit and feel more empowered and valued as a result. The ‘A.L.I.T.’ group, built up of apprentices, skilled operators and managers, gains insight and access into machinery suppliers, business owners and industry experts to help expand their knowledge and understanding of our industry.”

An atmosphere of learning

“My role within the Sports Turf Academy is more of a bit part,” Cal explained. “I don’t get too involved in academic presentations, instead I’ll have input in presentations about the site in general, I host site tours and give insights into how we built our facility and how we manage our operations.” 

Cal and the team have a very open and inclusive working environment. Their office is open plan, and everyone is encouraged to get involved in joint ventures. “I enjoy our group discussions,” he explained, “if someone has an idea, we all try to brainstorm a solution; for example, the ‘A.L.I.T.’ group came from a forum discussion about harnessing our people’s desire to progress. Sometimes it may be more operationally based and sometimes more education orientated. Whatever the subject matter, we are all prepared to support and offer ideas; it’s hugely productive and rewarding! The beauty of the Sports Turf Academy is that it is here to support the industry’s needs, and we can offer first hand input through our grounds team and our operation.”


I’m convinced that if more organisations could emulate just some of this style of working environment, then it would be hugely beneficial to our industry, not just for staff retention but recruitment from other trades. Perhaps in their next brainstorming session, the Leicester team could think of a way to ‘bottle’ this engaging atmosphere and share with the rest of us! Thanks Cal and thanks to the whole grounds team at Leicester City!

Article Tags: