The turf industry's premier annual gathering, the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition (BTME), will not take place in January 2021 as anticipated, with an alternative 'festival of turf' planned for summer 2021.
The event's organisers, the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association, has cancelled the popular trade exhibition due to the ongoing uncertainty relating to the coronavirus pandemic, having prioritised the health and wellbeing of its members, exhibitors, staff and other attendees.
The decision was taken following consultation with members of the association and regular dialogue with representatives of the Harrogate Convention Centre and other major stakeholders. It was agreed the hosting of a gathering of turf professionals from across the globe would create an unacceptable risk of infection, potentially putting lives at risk.
BIGGA's world-leading education programme, Continue to Learn, is held alongside BTME each year and will still take place during January 2021, albeit as an online event and with an altered timetable designed to reflect the new digital platform. A full programme of speakers will enable BIGGA members to access the world class education they have come to expect from the comfort of home or at their place of employment.
The announcement of an alternative event in summer 2021 will enable BIGGA to explore options for hosting the event outdoors, which current understanding of the infectious disease indicates will make for a safe event and will allow improved social distancing measures to be implemented. It is hoped that many of the exhibitors who had signed up for BTME 2021 will support this cost-effective event and BIGGA will be liaising with exhibitors over the coming weeks to discuss the opportunities it presents.
The Harrogate Convention Centre, home to BTME since its inauguration as the European Turf Management Exhibition (ETME) in 1989, has been utilised as an NHS Nightingale Hospital since the peak of the outbreak in April and BIGGA is incredibly proud to be associated with a venue that has been transformed to enable the treatment of COVID-19 patients, should the need arise.
However, the alteration of dates will require a new venue to be found and discussions are underway with potential event hosts. Details will be released in due course.
It is anticipated that BTME will return to the Harrogate Convention Centre in January 2022.
BIGGA Chief Executive Jim Croxton said: "The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves across our industry and BIGGA members have worked admirably in difficult circumstances to enable the continuing success of the facilities they maintain. The work they are doing in a safe and socially-distanced manner is admirable and has undoubtedly led to an increased confidence in golf as a safe pastime during these uncertain times.
"With member health and wellbeing being BIGGA's absolute priority, it was immediately clear that to invite thousands of turf professionals from across the globe to attend an exhibition during a season when there is anticipated to be an increased risk of disease transmission would be negligent and expose attendees to undue risk.
"BIGGA considers it important to host an annual event and BTME plays a vital role in the calendar year for the turf industry. BTME is an opportunity to come together to celebrate the achievements of the previous year, while building new contacts and looking forward to the future. We feel it is important to retain this community spirit where possible, especially considering the hardships we have all faced, and so we are exploring the possibility of hosting a safe and accessible alternative event in summer 2021. I'm excited about the possibilities presented by this and am confident our new 'festival of turf' will be as exciting and influential as ever."
BIGGA Head of Member Development Sami Strutt is responsible for the organisation of Continue to Learn, working with members to develop an engaging and relevant education programme each year.
Sami said: "Although the association will have no physical presence in Harrogate during January, we will be hosting Continue to Learn as a digital event and I'm certain the spirit of Harrogate week will be as strong as ever before.
"We have engaged with BIGGA members through our annual Members' Choice survey and are in the process of building an incredible series of online learning that will enable BIGGA members to continue their professional development, wherever in the world they may be."