0 2012 - and all it might bring - or not!

DaveSaltman-Aug09.jpgIs it just me, or will the Olympics come and go, creating nothing more than a few ripples in the annual calendar of sport? I don't want to rubbish the event, but I just can't get excited about its imminent arrival. I know that I should, and I'm sure I will tune in to see the highlights of a close run 1500m final or a new world record javelin throw, but you can, by and large, keep the rest.

I've tried to put my finger on the lack of enthusiasm; not just my own, but so many others. In the last couple of weeks on various radio channels and TV, I've heard presenters say as much about the lack of excitement. I think, for me, the football has never been taken seriously and I just switch off from the whole event. I must admit to enjoying Winter Olympics so much more. Let's hope, despite my reservations, that the event proves to be a huge success, leaving a legacy of great sporting facilities for generations to come.

As the country falls into a 'double-dip' recession, you could have been forgiven for thinking that, actually, the economy was reasonably buoyant, judging by this year's BTME at Harrogate. The general feeling was positive and, certainly, two of the three days seemed to be reminiscent of days gone by as you slowly edged along the walkways due to the sheer weight of people in front of you. It was good to see and, at face value, appeared to be a step in the right direction.

In perspective, the numbers were up, certainly on the previous two years, but probably still fall far short of the numbers three or more years ago. The condensed nature of the halls made the show look busier but, a key talking point was the decision to put John Deere, Ransomes Jacobsen and Toro under the same hall roof.

For the discerning customer, the opportunity to view 'the big 3s' equipment side by side was great, but for creating a better flow of well distributed footfall through the halls, perhaps that decision may be reviewed next time?

The arguments surrounding the installations of synthetic turf into stadium sport continue. The money men (Chairmen) think they are making the right decision, usually based on the salesmen's spin of low, ongoing maintenance cost and vastly increased income from many more hours of sport. It's unfortunate, at the moment, that they don't get the balanced argument of high replacement costs, particularly if little maintenance is being carried out, as well as the difficulty of attracting sufficient extra sport and corporate events in any way, shape or form to make it pay in the first place.

The first professional Rugby League game was played a few weeks ago on a new synthetic surface, Widnes played Wakefield. There was much discussion after the game on the TV, and in the papers, focused on the damage to the players' knees.

It seems there are interesting times ahead then, and the future will very much depend on there being a resolute and strong argument coming from the natural turf lobby.

At Harrogate, someone likened me to King Canute, trying to turn the tide of inevitability. The fact is that in America, where synthetics have been at the forefront of mainstream sport, many stadiums are reverting back to a natural surface. Why, because of the many documented cases and published papers on injuries, diseases and the safety of children using artificial surfaces?

The current tide is incoming, and will peak. Yet, with a united voice, it will recede to a point where we see natural grass remain as the preferred choice in stadiums.

Dave Saltman

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