Wages- do they justify the responsibility?
After many years working on the tools, my directional change in life with Pitchcare offers me the chance to look at our business under a new light. Having just scanned the latest trade magazines, I took a closer look at the jobs available and the salaries attached to them. The wage structure in place does not seem to represent the working responsibilities that the modern day job of Groundsmanship requires. From my own experiences, due to various clubs financial parameters, I found it difficult to employ good staff-a point that I have heard echoed elsewhere a hundred times. There is a need for more, better-trained and qualified staff to emerge, but how can the Industry entice young talent when the salaries offered are equal to shelf stacking at the local supermarket?
As far as I am aware, the IOG commission an annual survey on wage structure bands, but it seems to mirror agricultural rates and should only be regarded as a very loose template to work from.
So what price is put on the increasing responsibilities shouldered by Groundsmen?
It seems that Groundsmanship is seen as a labour of love, a vocation rather than a job, thus strengthening the prospective employers hand, Well I have to hold my hands up, I was no different, indeed my working hours often far exceeded hours paid. I gave up weeks of untaken holiday owed in lieu each year, because there simply wasn't the time and manpower to provide me cover.
To put our plight in perspective take construction workers, they work in a similarly manual industry filled with skilled and semi skilled professionals. The site agent running the project has the usual deadlines to meet with the same worries of health and safety, staff, machinery and product delivery-yet commands a salary of £30-50k per annum with car. His foreman will typically earn around £15-25k per year. The tradesmen receive similar money, (but then most are competent, skilled professionals). This leaves the labourers, well these lads work hard for it but they can still net £10-15k per year for their toils. Why is our profession so different? With sport on the increase and with such a high profile I would have expected to see similar hikes in our wage structure; alas not.
The skills required to produce quality surfaces generally come with experience and as many of us know, it's not necessarily what you do, but when you do it, that's important.
With good education programs available at colleges, indeed our first industry degree course is now available at Cranfield University, there is a whole new generation of professionals coming along; on the current salary scale how many of them are going to remain with us?
I've heard people in our Industry say 'it's not rocket science', well it's not, but it isn't an exact science either and requires a good degree of skill and conscientiousness to provide a top class playing surface. Against new developments, machines and techniques entering the market place come the new demands on our skills to provide increased playing time and better quality surfaces in ever more difficult surroundings and environments,
Health and Safety has been pushed to the fore, and rightly so, accountability for ones own actions or those of ones staff, heap on the pressure for the Assistant right up to the Manager. Again the remuneration for such responsibility is sadly lacking. All operatives have an obligation to work safely for both themselves and others around them, the machinery alone that we use daily has the potential to maim and kill.
Yet the real responsibility is providing a level playing surface, that allows a ball to travel without deviance and the sportsman to move quickly at pace (with the exception of bowls and golf in the latter).
In the professional world, insurance covers player injury, in football for example, a Premier match may have more than a £150 million worth of players on the pitch. I used to say " what cost do you put on the maintenance of the playing surface?" If one of the players twisted their ankle on a loosened divot and was sidelined in the crucial run in at the end of the season, the cost of missing out on a trophy, or Europe or even being relegated could be £20-30 million. This is the same albeit on a lesser scale, down the leagues and across the sports, yet clubs query and sometimes deny, even modest spending, be it on materials, machinery or more to the point on staff.
For amateur sportsmen, injury is no less pleasant, causing time off work, loss of earnings etc. I know that there are insurances but they invariably don't cover the real cost, and injury caused by a poorly maintained surface seems a high price to pay for a Saturday afternoon's enjoyment. At some point, it will become the norm when sportsmen and women are going to seek damages against the club and inevitably the Groundsman. We have seen a few already!
With that sort of responsibility involved, the quality of staffing and their salaries should be reflective. But alongside a better salary there should be a budget in place for machinery and products to enhance our chances of creating a better surface for players.