Groundsman of the Year Award
The recent nominations for the Groundsman of the Year Award has resulted in a flood of comments from members and, in particular, a hard hitting criticism from the highly respected Darren Baldwin of Spurs.
The main gripe is about the way the initial nominations are made - not by professional sports turf people but by visiting football managers and referees. They are asked to provide marks on each of the pitches they visit, with the top 3 in each division being judged by Steve Baker from the STRI.
The Award itself comes under the control of the Football League's Playing Surfaces Committee. The Chairman of this committee is Jim Ashworth who is also in charge of the Football League's referees. It could be argued that Mr Ashworth has more than enough on his plate without the distraction of overseeing a pitch award. The committee also has representatives from the IOG, STRI and the Professional Footballers Association.
There are many issues that spring to mind. Are referees and managers really the right people to make an assessment of a football pitch? Do they know how many matches and training sessions have been staged on each of the pitches? Do they know what resources are available to each of the groundsmen? Do they really care?
Before we are seen to be jumping on the complaining bandwagon, I should say that the Football League should be given a great deal of credit for instigating and developing an award system which recognises the work of groundsmen. Flawed or not, at least it raises the profile of their work - something which we all welcome.
Also, we should give recognition to the work of the Football Association which supports Groundsman of the Year awards at all levels outside the main professional leagues.
However, if the Football League Award is to be taken seriously by the people who matter, then there needs to be a review of the way the initial nominations are made. A few suggestions have been put forward by some of our members via the Message Board. These include nominations to be made by other groundsmen, involvement of the Regional IOG branches, and regular unannounced visits from the STRI.
At Pitchcare, we have an open mind about what changes should be made. What we do have an opinion on is the fact that changes must be made before the Award loses all credibility.
It is my intention to drop a line to the Football League bringing their attention to the views of our members. They must pay attention, particularly when the Head Groundsman of one of the shortlisted pitches says he is embarrassed about his nomination.
I will keep you informed.