When Halifax Town FC went into administration, the club were relegated three divisions to the Unibond North but, with a successful rugby league side sharing the facilities, work on the stadium pitch continues, despite finances being tight and equipment being slight!
The Shay Stadium in Halifax is owned by Calderdale Council and is leased to The Shay Stadium Trust Limited (SST). SST is a not for profit company which is a Company Limited by Guarantee, and its four members are the two professional clubs, Halifax Town FC and Halifax RLFC, and their two independent supporters trusts.
There have been concerns of late in respect of the football club which is now a member of Unibond North rather than the Conference, having been relegated three divisions as a result of it being in administration. Halifax Rugby League FC play in the Co-Operative National League One where they currently lie second behind Salford Reds.
The full area covered by the lease is nearly 13 acres and this is managed by a staff of three which comprises: Geoff Butler, Chief Executive and Stadium Manager, Graham Osbourne, Head Groundsman and Assistant Stadium Manager, and Mark Hans, Groundsman and Stadium Supervisor.
All administration work is the responsibility of Geoff while all work, both on the pitch and in the remainder of the stadium, is carried out by Graham and Mark. Graham's role also includes the management of parking on the site, and the five-a-side artificial pitch which produces significant income to the stadium finances.
The stadium pitch is natural grass that is, essentially, sand based but this is only due to a significant amount of sand having been applied as a surface dressing over the years. The sub base is poor quality material, some of which is due to the fact that The Shay is on the site of an old tip. Additional problems have also been caused by a layer of clay approximately 500mm below the surface in certain areas of the pitch, which remained from the old speedway track that was based at the stadium some time ago.
Over the past few years, in what has been considered to be the close season for the pitch, the clay has been progressively removed and significant areas that suffered from poor drainage have been restored to normal use.
With both professional football and rugby clubs using The Shay, the pitch has to be available for use all the year round. This year the groundstaff have had the 'luxury' of thirty three days to carry out essential work on the pitch. Last year it was just twenty days!
The equipment available is pretty basic; a Ransome Mastif mower that is over ten years old, an eight year old Dennis mower and a Kubota tractor that has clocked up over thirty years service,
The work carried out on the pitch in the close season included scarifying, disc seeding, topdressing with 90 tonne of rootzone 70:30 mix which was vertidrained and brushed in. Drainage and soakaways were provided for the wet spots, which had resulted from the heavy rain in the winter and the continual use of the pitch due to hosting both football and rugby league over this period,
It had been hoped to provide a new system of pitch drainage as the current system is totally ineffective. However, this was cancelled because SST did not have sufficient funds to cover the cost.
Problems are experienced every winter due to the southern half of the pitch not seeing any sun and, as a result, there is a continual reviewing of weather forecasts as it has been found that the southern half of the pitch can experience much lower temperature than the northern areas.
It is a requirement of the lease that The Shay is used for a number of amateur finals which, this year, has totalled fifteen. Due to the rugby club playing less matches than the football club they are allowed to use the pitch for an agreed number of training sessions and academy fixtures.
Overall, the use of the pitch in the year is the equivalent of approximately 80 matches.