For those of you who can remember the late sixties (I don't, my Granddad told me about them!) there was a band doing the rounds called 'Family' who were, perhaps, best known for their top ten single Burlesque. Fronted by singer Roger Chapman, who sang like a man who had swallowed a consignment of razor blades,one of their lesser-known songs was a track called 'Good news, bad news'.
It is a typical Family song that meanders from gentle acoustic ballad to manic, heavy rock and, when listening to it the other day, I thought how well it summed up our industry, especially the gentle to manic structure.
There has been plenty of good news about recently; the FA Awards to groundsmen at all levels of football, the Cricket World Groundsmen of the Year which, similarly, recognise stalwarts of the industry at various levels, whilst the up and coming Rugby Football League, Racecourse Association and Terrain Aeration's 'Unsung Heroes' awards will do similar.
We are also proud to announce our latest sponsorship of the Racecourse Groundsman of the Year Awards to add to the Cricket and Unsung Heroes sponsorship that we already do. I also carried out the final round judging with the Rugby Football League for the third year running. The quality of the pitches and the scope of works that the finalists have, were first class, so congratulations to all of you for this very deserved
I have noticed various groundsmen 'popping up' on regional TV and radio to talk about their wickets, pitches or 'the going' and it seems that, at last, there is a bit more recognition for the work they do. Much of it has centred on the unseasonably dry weather we were 'enjoying' in the early autumn. In all instances the groundsmen have handled the television cameras and interviewees professionally - they are to be congratulated on doing so outside their 'comfort zone'. I know just how difficult it can be!
The BBC's Country File programme also featured an eight minute slot on our industry, showing renovation work being carried out after an Oasis concert at
Coventry's Ricoh Stadium, an interview about bespoke turf growing with Inturf 's Steve Edwards and various machines in use, notably Dennis and Trilo. All good stuff which will help to raise our profile.
At the start of the new football season, pitches at all levels are looking fantastic. Even Wembley's pitch has silenced the critics and, with England (sorry to the other home countries) having already qualified for the 2010 World Cup, all appears well.
In cricket, England won back The Ashes and, after a dismal performance in the One Day International series against the old enemy, confounded the critics by performing pretty well in the ICC Champions Trophy. However, cricket groundsmen struggled with their end-of season renovations due to the dry conditions, something I'm sure they resolved with their usual enthusiasm by thinking 'outside the grass box'.
If you could see through the plants and playgrounds, the chance to 'get together' at Windsor was as enjoyable as ever although, in my opinion, there appeared to be fewer genuine grounds people in attendance. There is no arguing that the demographic of this show is changing and, personally, I don't believe it is for the better. But that's another story ...
The bad news? Well, to begin with, I was sad to hear that the Irish Turf Show was cancelled at the last minute. This biennial show was the only opportunity for manufacturers, suppliers and end users to come together in a country that has some stunning sports facilities. It is a sign of the times and, hopefully, just a 'recessionary blip'. I know the organisers are hoping to reinstate it once the downturn is over.
And then there is golf, a sport that is struggling to retain playing members with the resultant downturn in revenue that, without the guile of greenkeepers, would impact heavily on the quality of the courses. Budgets have, in many instances,been cut and this impacts across the whole industry.
But, the real bad news is that this industry mbucks the call to come together. Never, in my opinion and many others within the industry, has there been a more important time to get round the table and thrash things out, to lay to rest the Chinese whispers.
As the final line in Family's song says "change for the good would not bring bad news".