0 What a difference one year makes!

This time last year I was lamenting the continual barrage of Atlantic storms that came our way, bringing with them large quantities of rainfall. Of late, I've received plenty of comments from footballers saying we've not had much rain, so everything must be better. A layman's perception, if ever there was one!

The weather brings that degree of unpredictability to all of us in this profession and, with no two years the same, the reality is that it's difficult to compare one year to the next.

Whilst last year was very wet, it was also mild, right up until February when we then had a prolonged cold spell. The mild weather meant that we were still topping the grass off until the end of January; growth meant recovery and well drained surfaces were coping very well.

This year has followed a different theme, whereby we have had alternating milder, but damp days, followed by cold snaps. It has been like this since December with little or no growth for the last three months and, therefore, negligible recovery. The grass has been undecided on what it should be doing.

Officially, spring starts on March 20th. The spring equinox is based on the astronomical calendar that determines the seasons due to the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth's rotational axis, and its orbit around the sun.

Two years ago, the spring weather started on March 1st with daytime temperatures reaching 24OC. Last year, it arrived about eight weeks later than that.

Given that I've spent much of my working life on winter sports maintenance, February/March is the time when you start hoping that warmer weather is around the corner and that the grass will start growing and recovering to bring the pitches back quickly. Looking around the lower leagues at the moment, it can't come quick enough for a lot of clubs.

Whilst I'm on the subject of winter sport, and football in particular, it was with avid interest that I read that the Football Association has been in front of Parliamentary ministers this week to face a vote of no-confidence. There is a real threat that public funding will be withdrawn from football's governing body unless it is prepared to instigate reform.

For many companies in our industry, this will be viewed as a very welcome step forward. The current PIP scheme has been shrouded in controversy regarding its anti-competitive nature and the restriction of trade to all suppliers.

If you want cash strapped clubs to improve their facilities, you surely don't create a cartel-type system that removes choice and fair trade for end-users.

Cheers
Dave Saltman

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