Well eight months gone and we?re still here, keeping our heads above water.
They say that the first year in business is the hardest, keeping cash flow going against providing the service that we envisage. They?re not wrong, the business experience has been like the definitive roller coaster ride, one day you?re up, feeling strong and confident, the next day you find yourself down in the depths of despair. Very similar in fact to life as a Groundsman! However as time has gone by, we have grown from strength to strength, consolidating and expanding the website.
What drives us all on is the enthusiasm of everyone we meet and their encouragement, the people in the chat rooms and the comments on the message board.
In a short space of time our membership has risen close to 1400, the membership continues to rise steadily, and we hope to have reached in excess of 2000 by our first birthday.
The website was initiated for a number of reasons, primarily to offer an independent and impartial advice service to clubs of all sports, home and abroad. There are ?cowboys? in every Industry, but if you love the job as I do, you?ll agree that there have been prodigious amounts of money wasted on projects that were doomed to fail, from the time they left the drawing board. Certainly as a contractor I was privy to seeing a fair few over the years.
If Pitchcare and its members can offer good advice to help just one club, that has fund raised and toiled to save its pennies for a project, then our very birth will have been worthwhile.
But it is more than that for most of us; Groundsmanship (used collectively because I don?t see the difference between Groundsmen and Green keepers- we all do the same job) is very much the job in isolation, no one to ask for a little advice or even just a second opinion. The art of our Industry has never been an exact science, and even those with a wealth of experience and time served knowledge will still ask for outside help and advice.
I, like many others also feel that there is more than enough good basic, intermediate and advanced information and advice available, there just seem to be real difficulties in reaching the required audience. The Internet now provides this cost effective medium. Many clubs are reliant on part time or volunteer help to maintain their facilities. The turnover of personnel is high, mostly because the elected volunteer realises after a while that attached to the job comes the unwillingness of others to ?muck in?, the sheer consumption of time and the fact that the job is indeed bloody hard at times.
However help is at hand, learned Scientists and Engineers across our Industry, have tried and tested, products, machines and systems to find solutions; the manufacturers plough copious amounts of money back each year into research and development. We are closer now than ever, to providing the perfect surface, and the correct working procedures to keep the surface at its best.
But take a look at the other end of the Industry and we still see regular malpractice, illegal working practices contravening Health and Safety Legislation, the use of inappropriate materials and machinery and poor working techniques. Oh I hear you say, there isn?t the money, or the labour to do the things they do at professional clubs, that?s true, there isn?t, but most of Groundsmanship is not what you have or have not, its what you do and when you do it- and in all fairness, a reasonable playing surface can be achieved simply with a mower, brush and a spiker. Machines that can be bought second hand for as little as £3,000 or less, in total.
The second reason for the website was to provide a strong independent voice, a collective voice, representative of our Industry. A voice that in time would be able to necessitate change; change as in improved standards of pay, improved working conditions, improved status and improved learning.
For me the problem lies with the Groundsmens identity, as perceived by the nation.
We have been viewed as archaic and as slowly pulling up our socks, but this for me clearly is not quick enough. At long last the Government and the Sporting bodies have recognised the need to improve sport at grass roots so to speak, and with that there is now serious funding available for improvement.
So if as a profession, we want to earn more respect and with it, more money, we have to become more professional in our approach. One of the key issues, is that we often know what we want to do, but sometimes have difficulty in getting a strong enough argument across to the people holding the purse strings. There are many people, including Eddie Seaward, who share the opinion that Groundsmen would benefit from a crash course in public speaking, a skill that would help immensely in obtaining funding for new projects, staff and training from the powers that be.
The third reason for setting up Pitchcare was to provide cheaper access to quality products. Communities enjoy purchasing power, buy in bulk and make a collective saving. As the membership grows then the more bargaining power we have with the manufacturers. We have already announced the lowest prices available to buy SISIS equipment.
We have deals now brewing with other companies to bring our membership the cheapest prices on the very best available of seed, fertilisers and chemicals. An example of this is easy to demonstrate, just suppose of 1400 current members a quarter (300) say that they want to purchase 10 x 25kg?s bags of summer feed, the type required may vary slightly from member to member, but Pitchcare can then obtain keenest prices with the manufacturer for delivery of 3000+ Summer feed bags. The price reduction is then passed on to members. The same applies for chemicals, seed and even dressings.
With these three objectives outlined, Pitchcare also uses the Internet to promote a new camaraderie, the place to make new friends, find a job or even buy or sell some second hand ?kit?.
We hope to start regular informal chat forums, and I quite often meet members in the chat room who are extremely happy like myself to talk about the day they?ve had, the weather, the problems or just to generally pass the time of day. You know what they say about a problem shared!
If you are still reading this then I greatly appreciate your time, please feel free to send in comments to me via firstname.lastname@example.org or just leave some thoughts on the message board. We listen to and reply to all comments and mail, and more importantly we want the site to be driven by the members and what you want to see and read. Tell us where we can improve, send us articles that will be of interest to others, or contact the office to see when we could come out to your ground and write up a great article.
Please tell your friends about the site, and encourage them to use it as well, the bigger the membership, the more that companies are willing to advertise and sponsor its continual growth and expansion.
Between us we can take our Industry forward to a much brighter future.