The sun is finally shining in a light blue sky and the grass, for the first time this year, looks to be growing with some vigour. It has truly been a long and quite depressing winter for our Industry. So, now that spring has finally arrived, we can get on with preparing and repairing our surfaces and smelling that freshly cut grass again.
There has been much discussion and supposition about a meeting that took place on the 8th of March at the NEC, so I think it's best to explain why it evolved and the outcome.
Without going over too much old ground, the 'Trade' (Suppliers and Manufacturers to our Industry) have, for many years, found that the two Association shows - BTME and SALTEX - have become increasingly distant to their actual needs. Long gone are the days when punters rolled up to place their annual orders at a show.
These days, distribution networks, the media and company representatives do a very good job of disseminating information and demo'ing equipment. In fact, the shows now, primarily, offer a meeting point for Industry colleagues to get together and for some to receive education.
Based on the fact that more and more companies have become very singular in their decision to exhibit at either one show or, in some cases, not at all, Pitchcare sent out two questionnaires last summer to gauge the mood of both the Trade and Groundsmen and Greenkeepers - the results of these surveys can be found on the Pitchcare website and in a previous issue of this magazine.
After correlating the results, and with some further research, A meeting was organised at the NEC (as a central venue) for a good cross section of the Trade and representatives of the two Associations to air their views and gain a feeling as to what was need, as an Industry, to move forward. It was very well attended with around fifty-five companies, both large and small, represented.
It soon became very clear that there was an overwhelming Trade feeling for a single show. Neither the BIGGA or IOG representatives were left in any doubt as to the Trade's feelings.
The main points raised and discussed by the Trade are as follows:
• The two existing venues are now viewed as regional, where the breakdown of attendee figures largely shows only local attendance at the respective shows.
• A single Turf Industry Show is in the Trade's and the practitioner's best interests for the long-term future of the Industry.
• There is a genuine fear that, if the UK doesn't provide a single turf show, one will start in Europe and that will put paid to the existing shows anyway. This has already been seen in the Agricultural Industry with the demise of the Royal Show at Stoneleigh and Royal Smithfields.
• More International business, along with UK business, needs to be encouraged and generated than at present. A venue with good rail, road and air links should be considered to encourage far more people to attend.
• The 'one show' should continue to offer the diversity that BTME and SALTEX currently offer in terms of exhibitors range of products and services.
• The NEC is a venue option, but not the only option. The name of such a show is also just an option.
• There should be a possible charge for entry to put value to the show, reducing costs for exhibitors to allow more to attend and provide money for education and the Associations.
The key point from the day's discussion was that the Trade have no wish to harm the interests of BIGGA, the IOG or their respective members, but are of the opinion that, if there is no future change, both associations will suffer anyway with less exhibitors and delegates choosing to attend the existing shows.
Therefore, it is now time for all parties to meet and discuss the opportunities, with the intention of agreeing an acceptable and mutually beneficial future for all.
I would also like to reiterate that the 'one show' would, hopefully, be run as a joint BIGGA/IOG show and should provide a refreshing and positive outlook for the Turf and Amenity Industry.
On behalf of the Trade, I have now contacted both Chief Executives - Geoff Webb (IOG) and John Pemberton (BIGGA) - with a view to a meeting with a select Trade committee, to be kindly chaired by the Chairman of the AEA, Roger Lane-Nott CB FCMI FIAgrE.
Both Geoff and John have offered dates so, it is hoped, that there will be some positive outcome to report in the next few months.
Dave Saltman, MD Pitchcare