Ian Wall is a very busy man. As grounds and facilities manager at the Bank of England Sports Centre – the Roehampton-based facility that is open all year round for a wide range of outdoor (and indoor) sports but especially football, rugby, cricket and tennis, including an intense period for the Wimbledon Championships’ qualifiers – Ian says he needs products and suppliers he can count on to enable him and his grounds team of six others to keep all the surfaces looking pristine and playing well.
Rigby Taylor is included here, supplying a range of products for the five winter pitches (three football; two rugby), cricket, 14 permanent match-standard tennis courts, plus an all-weather pitch that is used for hockey, tennis and football as well as rugby fitness training, plus six all-weather tennis courts.
This portfolio increases for the pre-Wimbledon qualifying period – which is immediately followed by ITF international events as well as Wimbledon juniors’ qualifiers – to include temporary (converted football pitch) grass match tennis courts. During this period, the team has a total of 28 grass courts to prepare and manage. In addition, Ian and team also maintain four grass courts for the adjacent Lawn Tennis Association.
Indeed, as well as the ongoing maintenance of the surfaces, the grounds team’s role also embraces the annual renovations – using their own Koro machine. Contractors, however, are brought in for deep aeration and occasionally for weed control. Everything else is taken care of by Ian and his team.
Now 55 years of age, Ian has been at the site for 39 years, joining the centre initially as a summer casual. After being appointed as an assistant groundsman he has continually progressed to become head groundsman (in 1999), gaining a raft of groundscare (and other professional) qualifications along the way and into his current role (since the mid-2000’s) which, in addition to the grounds also includes being responsible for all building maintenance as well as site security, cleaning and health and safety.
Time, understandably, is at a premium so Ian says he must have products that perform on whatever playing surface they are applied to (the Roehampton site comprises a top layer of silt on London clay). This is where the Rigby Taylor supplies come into play with a variety of the ‘R’ range of grass seed being used – part of the Rigby Taylor iCON range of advanced seeds with outstanding tolerance to, for example, shade, drought and wear – as well as Greenor selective systemic herbicide (for a wide range of broad-leaved weeds including white and yellow suckling clovers) and the RT Outfield range of granular fertilisers that release nutrients over a six-/eight-week period. Also, Duraline and the award-winning Impact XP line marking paints are used (applied using an iGO machine) and Rigby Taylor also supplies cricket netting and football goal nets.
While Ian points out that “there’s no doubt that the standard of grass seeds, fertilisers and machinery” has improved tremendously over the years, he has also seen many changes in who uses the site.
“Its original use (since the early 1900s) by Bank of England staff has since been widened beyond the bank’s current and former staff and their families to include sports centre members (primarily local users) as well as the International Tennis Federation as well as corporate events. The site also accommodates such events as weddings and corporate sports days when all manner of sports are staged including shot put, rounders and softball. Attendances of more than 3,000 people are a common occurrence.
“We also work in partnership with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC),” Ian adds, “and this includes hosting the Wimbledon Championships’ qualifiers for both seniors and juniors.
“As well as upgrading the tennis courts – taking off the top 50mm, laser levelling then incorporating the same topsoil and grass seed as used at Wimbledon – we also constructed new courts, all to match AELTC standards. On all the courts used for the pre-Wimbledon qualifiers, we carry out similar maintenance regimes and fertiliser/chemical applications as those performed at Wimbledon.”
Cricket, however, is also a major participation sport for the centre and it is here in particular that Rigby Taylor products are put to good us
“We get great results by using R140 tetrapolid perennial rye seed for the outfield and R9 dwarf rye on most of the squares,” says Ian, “while the chemicals are also applied successfully on all the grass surfaces [except the ‘Wimbledon courts’].
“We’ve got a great relationship with Rigby Taylor’s regional sales director Mike Ring, who we’ve dealt with for some years, and while his technical advice has proved invaluable, we’re also happy to try new products. I’m willing to look at everything that might improve the surfaces and the way we maintain them.
“But, at the end of the day, it’s all about value for money. I need to be assured that everything I buy and use gives us the best return on investment and while I always keep an eye on available alternatives, the Rigby Taylor products do what they say they can – consistently and cost-effectively.
“Crucially, too, I know that if I need something quickly I can get it immediately from Rigby Taylor. That’s important, because circumstances can change – despite the best-laid plans!”