0 Comments and editorial misquotes

Comments and editorial misquotes

By Dave Saltman

For over 20 years I have been involved in the landscape and amenity business, cutting my teeth as an apprentice and then lucky enough to work at some prestigious venues as a Head Groundsman. Throughout my time I have learned much from seasoned professionals, both in terms of skilled practice but also how this Industry ticks.

When I first had the idea for Pitchcare in the summer of 2000, it was a concept based on listening to my contemporaries. There was dissatisfaction of the way that the Industry was being led. There was a lack of shared knowledge and experience, that had been lost when Groundsmen/Greenkeepers left or retired from the business. As a regular user of the Internet, I realised that here was a medium with which information could be easily accessed and shared. Although it would take the majority of the population a while to catch up with the technological age that was upon us.

Over the last four or so years my team and I have worked tirelessly to provide a free service to Groundsmen and Greenkeepers, a website that offers help, advice and information to fellow professionals and amateurs alike.

Pitchcare.com has grown at an amazing rate, with nearly 13,000 members as I type, and a current average of well over 10,000 members accessing the site in a given month.

We produce technical and 'from the horses mouth' articles, press releases and industry news to thousands of people, as well as other services that I felt everyone would need. We have been supported by companies throughout and a handful of shareholders, who invested in my dream to create a central hub of help and guidance for everybody involved in the sports turf profession.

We are now a team of five full time personnel and four part time free lancers, as well as around 20 main contributors who want to share their expertise and knowledge with everyone involved in natural grass management.

At 11:15 pm of Friday 18th February 2005; I had been home for about half an hour having driven back from the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, my current work commitment. That afternoon, I had just over seen the complete re-turfing of the stadium pitch for the umpteenth time. It had been a very long couple of weeks!

At about 2pm I received a call from my operations director, John Richards, to inform me that an article has been published in Horticulture Week and all of hell was breaking loose. The article has been copied and pasted at the bottom of what I am now typing.

Recent history

Now I don't have a grudge against synthetic turf, there is a place for it in certain situations. But my love and passion is natural, living, breathing grass.

In 2003 I went to Holland and attended a conference at the Amsterdam Arena, where UEFA and FIFA talked about the 3rd generation synthetic surfaces. In late 2004, I attended the second Stadia conference in Berlin where both footballing bodies appeared more adamant than ever to introduce these surfaces into mainstream sport again. Now they have fully endorsed the re-introduction of synthetic surfaces at the highest levels.

In Berlin there were a lot of attendees with a vested interest in natural turf, companies and Groundsmen who were distraught that no organisation was standing up for the Industry and fighting our corner. So for the last few months I had decided to take this forward and it has become a mission to unify the Industry.

Many conversations have passed and at BTME this year I drafted an 'In Principle' agreement for a World Turfgrass Council' which I took around to exhibitors at the show asking them whether they would pledge support. The answer from all of the companies was that this was a 'no brainer' and I got 78 signatures, mostly from MD's or senior figures within the companies.

Having researched this reasonably thoroughly in advance, I was aware that in the early '80's the National Turfgrass Council (NTC) had been formed by similarly worried people with the same remit-a representative body that would campaign for the benefits of natural grass. However the NTC disbanded because there was bitter infighting amongst the various governing bodies and in the end total disagreement on how it could move forward.

In conversations with some of the original members of the NTC, it was felt that to get agreement from the various organisations across the globe this time, a more gentle approach would be required. This summer in Llandudno there will be a conference of the International Turfgrass Society. They are predominantly academics who share their research with all so that research and development isn't doubled up and precious funding not wasted. It was suggested that the ITS conference would be the ideal time to nudge the various organisations into supporting the World Turfgrass Council (WTC).

Now the WTC objectives are quite simple. They are, to promote natural grass, lobby governments and sporting bodies and to provide funding for the further research and development of natural turf. Currently apart from the artificial argument we also have problems with the banning of various chemicals in the control of pests and diseases. The WTC would be able to lobby government on our behalf, at least to make sure that alternatives could be sourced before a particular chemical was removed from use.

My plan of attack was to speak to the companies first, (after all it's their bottom line), and get them on board, then secure the smaller organisations support such at the TGA, BTLIA, NTF etc before speaking to the IOG and BIGGA and asking them to support us as well.

You may well ask, why the stealth? Well, I felt that if there was overwhelming support from Industry (which there is), and the peripheral organisations whose members were mainly businesses too, were in agreement. There would then be a strong lobby already built to help persuade the governing bodies that they should also be in support.

I understand only too well that it's difficult for organisations such as the IOG to shout too loudly in favour of natural grass, when they represent the Industry as a whole, including the synthetic manufacturers and installers. I was therefore looking for their support in this venture and nothing more. After all they can lend support without being directly in the firing line.

However Horticulture Week (HW) have decided to print a misquoted conversation that I had at the BTME show. In fact when I talked to the author at the show, I believed our meeting had been set up to discuss the possibility of HW and Pitchcare working together on publishing a hard copy magazine, packed full of editorial content.

In that conversation I had mentioned as an aside, the WTC and the 'In Principle' agreement that I had been banding around the show. We had also talked more broadly about the two trade shows in the year and the financial concerns that companies had in attending both. Many companies have said that they would prefer to attend only one show each year and divert their marketing money in other directions. That could be corporate hospitality or road shows and demonstration days. My comments to HW were merely relating Industry feeling.

There were no notes taken by either of us at that meeting.

Over four weeks later this publication has seen fit to print a complete fabrication of my conversation. It doesn't represent my views, now or at any time.

On Friday afternoon, John Richards spoke on the phone to both the IOG and BIGGA to reassure them of our intentions. I have since asked HW to publish a complete retraction and offer a full apology for their printed article.

I have also e-mailed John Pemberton (BIGGA) and Pat Gosset (IOG) telling them of my feelings. I hope people will understand that 'no one should believe everything that's written in the press.'

Kind regards,

Dave Saltman


Horticulture Week editorial

Council planned for turf firms

Turf companies back agreement for a world turfgrass council to promote their interests

Turf companies have backed an agreement in principle for a world turfgrass council to promote their interests.
Pitchcare.com editor Dave Saltman, who is driving the move, collected 78 signatures from senior managers at the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition last month.
He said that for the companies it was a "no-brainer" that existing bodies BIGGA and the IOG should be replaced by an organisation that promoted their interests better.
He added: "They need someone to act on their behalf. The companies are mystified that serious issues aren't being challenged by the existing organisations."
Saltman said banning pesticides and installation of synthetic pitches were the big issues the new organisation would fight against.
He also advocated eight travelling road shows a year to replace BTME - which he said was restricted by its indoor venue in Harrogate - and Saltex, which he said came at a busy time of year for Groundsmen in September. Irrigation Control and British Seed Houses did not show at BTME this year and Saltman said other firms had threatened to pull out in 2006.

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