Well, it appears that the gloves are off, the cards are on the table, or any other phrase you care to mention, with regard to the 'state of play' within our industry and, as so often happens, a few have 'grabbed the wrong end of the stick'!
Let me begin by stating that Pitchcare is not looking to form an all encompassing, breakaway association. Fact.
What we, and many others within the industry, are calling for is one association and one annual exhibition for the turfcare industry. Yes, we'd love to be involved and, indeed, our members have almost insisted upon it. We may even be the catalyst for change, but we are not looking to be 'the association'.
Pitchcare has a strong voice within the industry. We are respected by Groundsmen and Greenkeepers for offering sound advice, quality training courses and a vehicle to air grievances, ask questions and, importantly, get answers. We are respected by the national media too, for they know that we are, at heart, a grassroots team with extensive knowledge of the job.
We provide an industry leading website and magazine to be able to impart this knowledge, not only from our in-house team but also from turfcare professionals across the UK and abroad. We encourage debate, as the recent articles on golf greens cutting heights, the use of sugars and 'the Gingerbreads' have shown.
I guess that we are in a fortunate position, in one sense, as our hands are not tied by the constraints of an association committee with strict rules and guidelines. In short, we can pretty much say what we want.
And that is what I have done in my previous two forewords. There seems little point in being 'the voice of the industry' or, as the strap line on the magazine states, 'serving the turfcare industry' if we do not use our collective media to make that 'voice' heard.
Those who have leapt to the defence of their own association, often without mentioning the dreaded 'P' word, whilst throwing criticism back at us, are missing the point - big time. Their actions are understandable, but misguided. This is not about self-glorification; this is about uniting a fragmented industry under one association.
Remember, I am in the fortunate position of both working at the 'coal face' and also leading a successful and vibrant membership organisation. Therefore, I hear all the industry gripes first hand, from all sectors - practising groundsmen, greenkeepers and contractors, and industry manufacturers and suppliers. And, they all want change. Fact.
I have already stated my views on the two major associations within the industry and will not go over old ground. But, clearly, with one of them 'fighting their corner' change is not going to be swift. In many ways I applaud the recent BIGGA vote to encourage groundsmen into their association. But, whilst it may appear to be a step in the right direction, it will not unite the industry. It may even fragment it further.
The industry is about to lose one of the smaller associations. It may already have folded by the time you read this. It was formed with the very best intentions, and with a highly qualified and intelligent group of greenkeepers at its helm. But, because, in effect, it was a splinter group, it just could not gather any real momentum. There is no criticism implied here, just an example of how difficult the road to unity can be.
There are two very interesting articles (well, over forty actually) in the latest issue of the Pitchcare magazine that I encourage you to read. The first is by Will Bowden, Lecturer in Greenkeeping and Sportsturf at Cannington College, who bemoans the lack of quality and numbers of youngsters coming into the industry. The second is an informed view of the industry by Head Greenkeeper, Terry Farkin.
Pitchcare prompted neither of these articles but, both authors, along with many others, see Pitchcare as being able to get their message and concerns across to the widest audience.