HAVING pondered for a while as to whether I should have published my 'X Factor' editorial comment in the last issue, I have been both amazed and delighted at the response I have received from many key people within the industry.
Calling for a united body for this industry is not something new and, as we all know, the IOG and BIGGA dabbled with the idea in recent years. My feelings back then were that, in principle, it was a good idea.
My reservations were that here were two traditional, some would say rather dated, organisations who would find it difficult to give up their own patch to find the common ground - and so it has proved.
So, what next? Well, the honest answer is that there are many more questions to be asked, the first being "why do we need a united body?"
If the recent poll on our website is anything to go by, 60% of turfcare professionals want to see a united body. 13.5% said they were happy with things as they are (possibly wearing blazers as they voted) and, rather sadly, 26.5% said they were "not bothered either way".
Okay, to the 60% I will say this, Pitchcare will continue to champion for a united body, not necessarily to replace the two existing associations, but to help them to understand that, in unity, there is strength.
To the 13.5%, I say fine, if you are getting benefit from your membership then good on you. To the 26.5% who are not bothered, I say "why are you not bothered?"
Are you not bothered about the ever-changing legislation in our industry? Are you not bothered by health and safety regulations? Are you not bothered by personal or staff training and development?
About working with your management, the bad press the industry receives, or the real risk of losing your job in the current economic climate? Are you really "not bothered"?
There is clearly a groundswell of support for a united body - our online poll and the number of messages and phone calls I receive show that to be the case.
On publication of the 'X Factor' I received a very polite and considered response from the BIGGA Chief Executive, John Pemberton who, on the whole, agreed with much of what I said. John, I know, has been a strong advocate of the united approach and has worked very hard towards this aim.
From the IOG I heard nothing, but why should I be surprised?
The IOG appear to be spending much of their time honing their 'Challenging Perceptions' document and championing the cause of their high profile members.
Wembley's Steve Welch is a prime example, and I quote from an IOG statement "Steve is one of our high profile members and the last few weeks have been a difficult and pressurised period in his career. It was entirely appropriate to provide Steve with our support during this time."
Now, I'm not sure that we will ever know the 'facts' about the 'Welch - Wembley' saga. Historically, I defended Steve and his team through the media, as I have done for everyone involved in our great industry.
But, why was it "appropriate" for the IOG to support just Steve and not others up and down the country who have also had the misfortune to lose their jobs?
However, let's be clear here. Wembley is not the issue. It is one of them, as it has, up until recently, given our industry some bad press - but it is not THE issue.
The issues are:
- EU legislation on pesticide use
- Health and Safety regulations
- Training and Education
- An industry that is not seen as a good
- Wage scales
- Redundancy and unemployment
- Waste and water management legislation
- Legal and legislative issues
- We are all 'just grass cutters'
And they affect every one of us, from the lads and lasses currently taking their NVQs to the Master Greenkeepers and Stadium Managers at high profile venues.
And that is 'why' we need a united body.
Over the coming weeks and months Pitchcare will be doing whatever we can to move this forward.