Footes Lane Stadium's Grounds Supervisor, Shane Moon, reckons he has the best job in the world ... but perhaps not the best salary! In this article, he explains how getting advice from some of the top groundsmen in the country has helped his career and suggests that people should be sitting up and taking notice of the groundcare industry
Footes Lane is a multi-use sports stadium in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey and is the main sports venue on the second largest of the Channel Islands. The stadium has a capacity of 5,000, with 800 seated, and accommodates rugby, football and athletics, on the 15.5 acre site.
The site is run by the States Of Guernsey Culture and Leisure Department, who are responsible for promoting and maintaining a range of sporting services.
Grounds Supervisor Shane Moon has been with the department for thirty-two years, and has worked at most of the sports facilities on the island during his time with them. He has been at the Footes Lane Stadium for the past twelve years.
He works alone, in the main, but can call on Adie le Sauvage and Stuart Gallienne (who have both served sixteen years with the department) as and when required to help with pitch maintenance. He also gets an annual visit from an STRI turf agronomist.
"I started part time as a groundsman and cleaner for the States of Guernsey Beau Sejour Leisure Centre thirty-three years ago," comments Shane, "and I still work for the same department!"
"In that time, I have completed Level 2 in cricket, bowling green, football/rugby and artificial pitch maintenance. I have also attended many supervisory and management courses, plus machinery maintenance, chainsaw management, playground, health and safety and first aid."
So, was there one person who inspired him? "To be honest, a lot of people have inspired me since I started work in this industry; too many to mention. But, if I had to choose one, it would be Dave Roberts who, at the time I started looking after Footes Lane, was Head Groundsman at Southampton FC. As you probably know, he has now taken over the reins at Anfield.
I was lucky to become a friend and have worked with the guys at St Mary's on a few occasions. I have also been fortunate to spend time at Molineux with Wayne Lumbard."
Originally, Footes Lane comprised a floodlit hard porous area which had been laid in 1973; defects in the surface became apparent during the 1987 Island Games which were hit by heavy rain, making performing virtually impossible. It was clear that the facility needed a major overhaul and redevelopment.
Plans were drawn up to create facilities for, in the winter, hockey, football and rugby and, in the summer, an athletics track and field.
It was decided that a three phase plan would begin with the athletics track and infield, plus an artificial sand filled surface for hockey, and occasional football, on the old cricket pitch. Work started on this project in February 1993, taking twenty-eight weeks to complete. The original facilities were replaced with a polyflex track and equipment for field events. The infield was to be used for football and rugby outside the athletics season.
The Garenne stand was officially opened by the Bailiff in May 2003 in readiness for another Island Games in July. The stand now seats 800 people, and includes four changing rooms, officials room, three treatment rooms, stores and facilities for the disabled.
The stadium is floodlit, as is the artificial turf pitch, which also has a hockey pavilion adjoining it.
The total capacity is now 5,000 and a new rugby club bar and high performance gym have also been added.
"We have many big Channel Island events here," explains Shane. "The Muratti Vase is an annual football tournament contested between Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney, whilst the Siam Cup is the annual rugby trophy played between Guernsey and Jersey."
"The Siam Cup is the second oldest rugby trophy in the world (second only to the Calcutta Cup) and its existence is steeped with an interesting and chequered history. It is the annual challenge trophy at the end of the season. The venue alternates between the islands."
"It was during the German occupation of the islands that the cup was at its greatest risk, because they wanted it to be sent back to their homeland to be melted down and used as funds to support the Third Reich. Strangely enough, the cup 'disappeared' and was not rediscovered until after the end of the occupation. To this day, there is no record of its whereabouts during this period," says Shane.
"Flooding was always a problem here whenever we had heavy rain," comments Shane, "so, in May 2013, we improved our pitch drainage by gravel banding the whole length of the pitch at 1 metre x 100 slits at 400mm down. We then filled the slits with 300mm of gravel, topped with 100mm of sand."
"We also washed out all lateral perforated drains so that the new gravel bands met up with the existing bands. Myself, Adie and Stuart, plus two contract staff, undertook the work using machinery hired from Shelton Sportsturf Drainage Solutions."
"We used 125 tonnes of gravel and 75 tonnes of sand. This was then topdressed with a 100 tonnes of sand and overseeded with ten bags of grass seed."
"Each year, I apply 100 tonnes of sand to the surface due to the drainage problem we had previously. So far, all is good! We have just purchased a Redexim Rink topdresser DS1200 to apply our sand dressing."
"We get heavy usage on the pitch - football and rugby in the winter and athletics in the summer - there is athletics training four times a week on the infield - so it has to look its best at all times; and especially when you get a Royal visitor, like we had last summer!"
"I have a major problem with rabbits, they are all over the island. I live with it at the moment, but we are working on ways to control them ... and they make a good stew! Only joking; not my cup of tea."
"As for my maintenance regimes, I check the pitch every day for damage and will cut each week if I see the need, but this can change. Out of the rugby and football season I tend to cut at 50mm. I have been using a Toro Reelmaster 2000 triple mower, but have just purchased a Trimax 190 which is giving great results. I also use a Kubota BX 2350 for picking up clippings, especially if I have used the turf groomer."
"Marking out during the playing season is weekly as I have rugby one week and football the next - so white mark in and green mark out. I have two linemarking machines; one for white and one for colours - and stencils if needed. I also mark the throwing sectors every three weeks, during their season."
"I try to aerate monthly with my Charterhouse 7110 Verti-Drain. I also have access to the States Works Verti-Drain, which is a lot bigger, and I use that four times a year. I also have a Sisis Maxislit slitter."
"Scarification is done through my turf groomer, which I also use for levelling during the season."
"Weed control is undertaken annually and, where pest control is concerned, I am very lucky as I have only been hit once by chafer grubs, oh ... and those pesky rabbits!"
"It is very rare we get any serious disease outbreaks; the odd bit of red thread and, years ago when I took over the post, the pitch was covered in toad rush. Worms are more of a problem now, as I have introduced the sand top and they tend to bring the soil from below through the sand. I am working on the best way to deal with them."
"Overseeding I do twice a year, but I do additional overseeding if I see areas weakening. I sometimes pre-germinate my grass seed in a wheelbarrow, which helps speed up repairs."
"I apply a slow release fertiliser three times a year and apply additional fertiliser as and when needed. I use a small John Deere tractor and a Kilworth hopper spreader for application."
"End of season, we Verti-Drain, scarify, cut down to around 20mm and then overseed with J Premier pitch grass seed and then apply 100 tonnes of sand. This is then levelled out, brushed in and rolled. Our renovations budget is very small but, as we have changed the pitch and introduced gravel banding with a sand top, we need to keep this open so the sand dressing is very important, but costly, as it all has to come from the mainland."
"Fitting in the renovations is the difficult bit as really we don't get a break, athletics goes on the infield straight after the last football or rugby match, and we host all the local school sports days as well! We do, however, get the job done, but it means covering part of the running track to get access. This year, we actually did the job over the weekend to avoid disappointing the end users!"
"Here in Guernsey, we don't tend to get the frosts and extreme weather you do on the mainland, so I guess we have it a little easier. We do get the rain though but, since the renovations were done, we have had no disruption at all."
On the new artificial pitch, Shane brushes the pitch weekly and clears any debris, such as leaves, whenever needed. "Annually, we have the pitch rejuvenated by a company from the mainland as we have no equipment on the island to undertake the job."
Asked whether he is considering employing an apprentice, Shane's answer is forthright: "I would have loved to be able to train up an apprentice as this is a marvellous job to be in, but the opportunity has not been offered, as yet."
Even though Shane has undertaken health and safety and first aid courses, a safety officer is on duty on match days and, at some events, ambulances are also on site. "But, as we are just two minutes away from St Johns and five minutes from the hospital, things are dealt with very quickly," confirms Shane
It is clear that Shane is passionate about the industry he works in and wants to 'spread the word'. "We should get out there more and show off. People should sit up and take notice of our industry; there are so many very special groundsmen all over the world, and many who do the jobs for the love of the club and deserve special praise too."
"Whilst I would say our industry is in a good place right now, it could be so much better."
What's in the shed?
Sisis Maxislit slitter
Redexim Rink DS1200 Topdresser
Kilworth hopper fertiliser spreader
John Deere 2520 tractor
Kubota BX2350 cutting deck and box
Light Roller (rarely used)
Toro Reelmaster 2000 triples
"We generally purchase machinery from new. I do purchase locally, but also direct as the mark up here is way too much!
We always have to get quotes for purchases, but do like, where possible, to stick to who and what we know.
The Rink DS1200 topdresser has been a godsend - so much better than what we had previously.
A local company does our major servicing, but we carry out routine maintenance ourselves.
We do hire machinery, but I do like to do as much as we can in-house.
What would my wish list include? A brand new irrigation system, lighting rigs ... oh, I could go on and on!"