0 From the grass roots to the top

DaveSaltman-Aug09.jpgWhen Pitchcare was launched almost ten years ago, our stated remit was to unite the turfcare industry from the grass roots up, whilst giving turfcare professionals the opportunity to discuss, openly, the issues of the day.

Over the ensuing years, we have tackled a few contentious issues, and I have been called many things by various people; arrogant, big-headed, single-minded and, probably, the best of the lot, passionate (not by my partner though!).

Perhaps I am a mix of all those things, but the people who know me well, also understand that, having been a practising groundsman at some of the leading venues in the UK, and having learned my trade from the bottom up, I consider myself to be well placed to talk about our industry. I fully understand the issues that face groundsmen and greenkeepers on a daily basis.

I am fortunate to know many high profile and well respected turfcare practitioners - across all sectors - the majority of whom I can count as industry friends. Likewise, because I am now running a growing business, I am able to discuss and understand the industry from a different perspective.

So, it annoys me when I hear comments being made in certain quarters, that I don't have my finger on the pulse, and that my many comments about industry concerns are misguided.

Let me state, here and now, that I do know what is going on in this industry, and I fully understand its needs, from the grass roots to the very top. And, it really is time that those purporting to lead this industry took their heads out of the sand and listened.

Take our latest issue of the magazine as a perfect example - and regular readers will know this is not a 'one-off'.

Within its pages you will find articles about grassroots groundsmen - those volunteers who are the lifeblood of bowls, cricket and lower level football and rugby - through to the paid professionals working at modern stadia. Our 'find me a job' campaign, aimed at helping those members who have lost their job, through no fault of their own, find a new position, has had its first success. Throw in passionate comment from turfcare professionals, plus various technical articles and that, in a nutshell, is what Pitchcare is all about. Plain and simple.

With golf clubs struggling to make ends meet, local authorities charged with making stringent cost savings and gate receipts down at many of the football and cricket grounds, the real world has hit our industry big time.

Yet, all still is, if you believe the fluff and thunder, hunky dory in exhibition land. Saltex is just a couple of months away and exhibitor numbers have not yet reached three hundred - it was over four hundred in 2010 - and that's with the 'big boys' back for their biennial bash. Exhibitor numbers were down at this year's Harrogate show, regardless of what BIGGA wish to tell you and, if you look on the relevant exhibition websites (including Scotsturf), you'll see that stand take up is scarily low.

I can hear the responses now; "Saltman's mouthing off again". Please, please understand that I do not wish any of the exhibitions to fail. What I do want is for this industry to succeed. Not for any personal glory, but for the ongoing growth of our fragmented profession.

If that means one show, one association and one voice, then I am all for that. However, if the two main shows could be turned around to become vibrant and relevant again, that is fine by me too. Somehow, I fear, that is now unlikely.

Quite simply, those that profess to lead the industry need to start listening to the constructive criticism, and to evaluate the facts rather than believe their own hype. But, hey, what do I know?

Cheers
Dave Saltman

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