The Grounds Management Association (GMA) announces a £3.9M investment from the Premier League, The FA, and Government's Football Foundation with Sport England to deliver the association's third phase of the pitch improvement programme for grassroots sports.
Formerly known as the Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme (GaNTIP), the newly named Pitch Advisory Service (PAS) is part of the GMA's ongoing commitment to help improve natural turf provision across football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league at grassroots level in joint collaboration with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL).
After a year of disruption to sport, the GMA's Pitch Advisory Service will continue to focus on raising the standards of pitches to increase playability, maximise player experience and decrease the number of cancellations due to declining pitch quality.
The programme provides an enhanced network of GMA turf care specialists available to people and organisations maintaining natural turf pitches within local communities, with the funding boost growing the number of GMA advisers available to them by almost 30 per cent.
The Pitch Advisory Service also offers access to dedicated, sport-specific key account managers at the GMA - a team of grounds management specialists bringing years of grassroots and professional knowledge to the programme. Key account managers work collaboratively with each National Governing Body of Sport (NGB), as well as Sport England, to deliver national objectives to sustain high levels of sport and physical activity, now and in future years. During 2019-20, the regional pitch advisors visited more than 4,500 pitches, with the programme improving grounds maintenance practices at 91% of the sites visited.
With lockdown placing sport and physical activity on hold, maintaining playing surfaces remained a vital task for volunteers across the country. New digital applications like the Football Foundation's PitchPower helped clubs facilitate pitch inspections during restrictive periods, which were each reviewed digitally by the GMA's regional pitch advisors removing the need for a face-to-face site visits. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, PitchPower allowed the PAS to carry out three times as many pitch assessments as before it was launched and it will remain an important tool now restrictions ease.
During this time, the GMA also supported the ECB in getting recreational cricket played by providing COVID-specific grounds management advice and working with the ECB Facilities Team to engage with local authorities to maximise the number of facilities available in a challenging 2020 season. New online webinars and training courses helped volunteers expand their learning and network with regional pitch advisers.
In addition, the Football Foundation Groundskeeping Community app, managed with support from the GMA, saw a 43% rise in users during lockdown and now has 2,670 engaged members, with numbers continuing to grow.
Innovative and collaborative practices, like online services and applications, will be at the centre of the Pitch Advisory Service, with the GMA providing high-quality recommendations and advice to best support clubs of all shapes and sizes, as well as local authorities, both online and offline.
Through its partnerships, the GMA also aims to increase the number of volunteers, improve skills and knowledge through its training, and provide leading guidance and information for those involved in, or connected to, grounds maintenance at clubs. The programme will also look at ways to encourage women, as well individuals from diverse backgrounds and walks of life to get involved, with the aim to build a strong future workforce.
Next year, the GMA aims to launch an industry-leading Pitch Grading Framework that will provide a benchmark for pitch standards, alongside a simple, affordable education pathway for all grounds staff and volunteers to gain the right level of understanding for each type of pitch.
For more information on the Pitch Advisory Service, click here