Budgets - the bane of every groundsman's life. We are a proud bunch, from the local volunteers, right up to the lucky few who work at the world's biggest stadiums. We all have a common goal regardless of what level we work at - to produce the best surfaces we can, and the quality of our surfaces is what we are judged upon. This is unfortunate, many fail to consider what we have to work with before passing comment.
Groundsmanship only seems to be recognised at the top level; people marvel over the patterns at Manchester City, but few will ever realise what goes in to producing such a surface. At the other end of the scale, people turn a blind eye to the quality of the work at a local club ground and it is often taken for granted. Many of these clubs can't afford to pay for a groundsman, many can't afford to buy the machinery that they need - it amazes me how these clubs survive.
The very survival of these clubs often depends on the volunteer sector. How many other business's survival is based on a volunteer workforce? It is a sad fact that the grass roots clubs are effectively run as a charity, whose very survival is dependent on a handful of people who give up their time for nothing. How can this happen in a multi-million pound industry, no not groundsmanship - sports?
The puzzle is that sports would not be complete without the surfaces on which they are played. A professional industry that is supported by charity? Sooner or later this phenomenon must come to an end.
I am one of the lucky ones, I get paid for doing the work which I love. My name is Michael Atherton (yes, I know!) and I am currently employed as the Deputy Head Groundsman at King William's College, based in the Isle of Man. It is a position that I have treasured for almost six years now, previous to which I was introduced to sportsturf at my local golf club.
School groundsmanship has often been considered something of a Holy Grail for any groundsman. It is, sadly, one of the few stable positions within groundsmanship. Our employment is not dependent on the success of our team and it is not dependent on members 'subs'. A position on the grounds at a school is often considered a job for life.
There is a varied sports curriculum at the college, and it is our duty to prepare and maintain surfaces to allow our teachers to deliver their lessons. In addition to this, we also provide a home venue for two cricket clubs, one rugby club and one hockey club. The survival of these clubs depends on us providing them with a surface. Without the surfaces that we provide, these clubs would simply have nowhere to play. This leads me to the costs of providing these surfaces.
As cricket is our most labour intensive surface, I will focus on this area.
We have four cricket squares and two sets of five bay practice nets. Last year, we had approximately 120 fixtures, in addition to daily lessons on the squares. The cricket nets are in daily use from the school, and one evening per week by one of the clubs. We have matches during school hours, evenings and weekends, it is not uncommon for us to have four matches over the course of a weekend. Approximately eighty percent of our fixtures are club matches, therefore, common logic would dictate that eighty percent of our maintenance budget should be derived from the cricket clubs. This is where our industry fails, there is often a significant difference between what is paid for the use of the facilities, and what it costs to deliver them.
We can attribute our running costs to three areas:
There are numerous products on the market for us groundsmen to choose from. We can spend anywhere between £50 and £300 for a bag of grass seed. Loams from £3 up to £6, different pesticides, fertilisers etc. My point is that there is scope to fit almost every budget where materials are concerned.
As groundsmen, we have opportunities to make further savings. We can join together with other clubs and buy in bulk, we can shop around for the best prices - there are a number of suppliers out there and they all want to move their products. We can compost our clippings and dress the outfields. There are savings to be made if we look hard enough.
Again, there are a number of manufacturers and dealers out there, all with a wide range of prices. There is also the second hand market where bargains can be had, although due care must be taken when purchasing from this area. We can share machinery between clubs, we can hire contractors to carry out certain tasks such as spraying or vertidraining. On the mainland you also have access to trailers provided by the ECB, which carry all of the machinery required for end of season renovations. So, here we have another area where we can cut our cloth accordingly.
This is where things get difficult as everyone's time is worth something. As I mentioned earlier, I'm fortunate in so much as I get paid for the work which I undertake; a huge number work for nothing. As with the materials and machinery, there is a large scope to adjust costs which are attributed to labour. This often runs parallel with the quality of the surface that we produce however.
I often read of differing preparation times for a wicket, anything from five and fourteen days. The time we spend is often dictated by the quality requirement, the machinery available and the skill of the groundsman. Variances can also be found where we are preparing a new wicket, or whether we are reusing a wicket for a second or third match. A little while ago I estimated that we spend a mean average of eight hours preparation for each fixture at the college.
To tie this all together, we have to combine the costs of labour, machinery and the materials which we use.
Taking into account the costs of machinery, which I feel depreciates at thirty percent per year, an average skilled groundsman's wage and what we spent on materials, I estimate that we spent approximately £20,000 maintaining our cricket facilities last year. Taking into account the variables that I mentioned above, I feel that this cost could be adjusted to anywhere between £17,500 and £60,000.
If we take our £20,000 and we divide it across the users of the cricket facilities, and factor in the amount of usage by each user, we would find that £4000 would be covered by school fees, and £16,000 by the clubs.
We can further divide this by the income streams which would be match fees, catering, and the occasional provision of accommodation.
It wouldn't be prudent of me to divulge what we charge for the use of our facilities, but I think that I can speak for our industry in general in saying that, aside from the clubs that consistently reside in the top tiers of our sports, we all struggle to provide the surfaces that our sports require with the funds that we have available.
My personal feeling is that we, as an industry, are nearing a chronic lack of facilities to play our sports on. This is as a result of a number of factors such as increased Health and Safety legislation, increased demands on the surfaces and the ongoing change in mindset where volunteers are proving more difficult to come by.
To prove my point, go and have a look at any industry where the workforce is made up of volunteers, and have a close look at the volunteers, how old are they? It is a sad fact that the volunteers are a dying breed.
There is the odd exception to the rule, and that will always be the case. I often read of young men and women who want to volunteer their services but, upon closer inspection, we see that, in the main, these volunteers are willing to give up their time to 'get their foot in the door', and they soon move into the professional sector.
There is no escaping the fact that soon their will be no place for volunteers, the ever increasing working regulations won't allow it - a skilled, professional workforce will be a pre-requisite.
Soon, our industry will be left with only two options. Clubs will have to run as a business and all costs will have to be passed on to the end users, similar in this regard to how most golf clubs run. Or funding will be made available for the upkeep of the grounds by the sports governing bodies.
I feel that, with either of these scenarios unlikely to happen, not only will the art of groundsmanship die off, but so will grassroots sports, which will, inevitably, lead to higher levels of obesity, crime, stress and a further stretched National Health Service. The possible ramifications are endless. Action must be taken at all levels to ensure that this does not happen.
Mike Atherton, Deputy Head Groundsman, King William's College, Isle of Man
The aim of this document is to analyse the 'real' costs involved in providing cricket.
The overriding aim is to show what good value membership fees and match fees are at the club and how much we are reliant on alternative sources of income (e.g bar sales etc.).
I will attempt to take into account numerous amounts of voluntary work carried out by various members.
The following has been assumed:
A groundsman is employed for thirty hours a week in season (fifteen hours per ground), and four hours per week out season, at a rate of £15 per hour.
This would be commensurate with IOG pay scales for grounds manager/head groundsman.
The season is defined as 30 weeks.
The secretary and coordinator are both paid at a rate of £10 per hour for two hours a week - assuming a very rough work load of 100 hours a year.
Machinery maintenance £1500
Ground materials £2000
Club staff (ground, sec, coordinator) £16820
I'm assuming 200 matches per season and that all matches have the same nominal value.
So, costs for the above on a per game basis are:
Other much day costs are:
Bar staff (assuming one person
working 4 hours @£12 per hour) £48
Sky TV £4.21
This gives us an overall cost of £208.45 per game.
What the above doesn't take into account:
1) Multiple games taking place on the same day. This would reduce the costs applicable to those games, for example bar staff costs.
2) The fact that many games are played on artificial.
3) The fact that many games are junior (colt) games.
4) The staff (sec & co-ordinator) hours are likely much higher than those accounted for.
5) The costs of providing artificial surfaces.
Therefore, £208.45 is the minimum it costs us to play a game of cricket on grass.
Jon Lawrence, Head Groundsman, Weston-super-Mare CC, Somerset
After a very thought provoking thread on the Pitchcare message board regarding voluntary work by groundsman (http://www.pitchcare.com/message/message/16554), it occurred to me that I had never done a detailed cost analysis of what it takes to produce a cricket pitch.
Here at Bishops Castle we run two Saturday sides in the Shropshire League (1st XI in Division 2, 2nd XI in Division 7), a Sunday Friendly side and at least two youth sides (in 2008 U-11s & U-13s). Our ground (The Manor) is owned by the Sykes family and the club have played there as its full time home since 1946.
I have maintained the ground since 1985 having been left in a hole (so to speak!!) so, all of my learning has been very much 'on the job', with the only education being the IOG Level A and B.
The figures that have been analysed are for the last three seasons (2006-7-8). Obviously, it is not an exact science but, nevertheless, quite interesting with relevance to the actual cost of producing cricket pitches.
With regard to the maintenance of the ground, I personally am responsible for everything from the boundary line in. I receive help with hedge cutting, mowing boundaries, pest control etc. All of the work is done on a voluntary basis.
In the 2008 season, from the first roll on April 2nd until ground renovations on the last Saturday in September, I undertook a total of 310 hours of actual work, with numerous other hours spent on lunchtime pitch inspections and generally keeping an eye on things, so the total hours was probably nearer 375-400 spent at the ground (as well as playing).
The tasks undertaken by others probably amount to 40-50 hours over the season, plus offsite maintenance of ground equipment undertaken by my brother-in law.
I have based the analysis purely on the hours worked by myself, over the three season period.
An average number of forty-five pitches per season were fully prepared at an average cost, based on our maintenance costs, of £28.10 per pitch, so £2.55 per home player.
As a percentage of our total expenditure over the period, the amount for grounds maintenance was 7.63%, with an additional 12% spent on purchasing machinery and tools.
Over the period, an average of 305 hours per season were worked by myself, which, if multiplied by a notional hourly rate of £15, would take the average maintenance cost to £129.65 per pitch, so £11.79 per home player!! (we charge a £5 match fee & £50 subscription).
So, it is patently obvious that, without the huge pool of voluntary labour, that club cricket would be a very elitist activity, but how many club committees and players actually realise the extent of this situation -especially when handing over club funds to professional players and such like.
Stephen Morris, Head Groundsman, Bishops Castle CC, Shropshire