Sports stadiums, clubs and venues worldwide are being struck by the Coronavirus outbreak, experiencing cancelled bookings and the postponement of major matches.
In the light of these, groundsmen and senior staff have been experiencing changed schedules and have adapted their ways of working.
All elite UK football has been suspended until April and Premier League Arsenal’s training centre, based in London Colney, has also gone into lockdown until further notice following the club’s head coach, Miketa Arteta, going into quarantine after being tested positive for COVID-19.
Speaking on behalf of his grounds team, head groundsman Steve Braddock, commented: “In what is an unprecedented and very difficult set of circumstances we’re continuing to monitor the developing situation. We’ve made and will continue to make the appropriate changes to working patterns to make sure we’re protecting our staff and doing the best job we can.”
Scottish Rugby Union’s head groundsman, James Dawson says, “staff have been sent home on a temporary basis, on paid leave. This is to ensure staff well-being and also because tasks usually done in the run-up to a match are not needed for the time being.”
Rugby Union – as well as Rugby League – is one of many sports which has been postponed indefinitely, with others including the London Marathon being moved from April to October, while horse racing will continue ‘behind closed’ doors until the end of March.
Meanwhile, the possible rescheduling of the domestic cricket season in response to the coronavirus outbreak will be discussed by the England and Wales Cricket Board and county bosses on Thursday, with initial talks between clubs and the ECB will taking place via a telephone conference call.
Due to booking cancellations, some venue facilities aren’t being used as they usually would be, which means staff schedules have changed. William Relf, Sports Ground Manager at Loughborough University, highlighted how staff tasks have been changed and, in the effort to stick to government guidelines, it has been agreed that staff can work on basic grounds tasks for the time being, since staff work mostly in an isolated environment.
Indeed, venues and clubs collectively have been closely following government guidelines around hygiene throughout the working day and what is advised for staff, sporting teams and spectators.
Guidelines around hygiene and protocols are being closely followed. Danny Negus, head groundsman at Devonshire Park, is running a ‘singular task’ strategy for his team. Where his team is usually given a variety of tasks throughout the day, Danny has been giving each member of staff only one task and one piece of equipment to work on per shift.
“This means that there won’t be lots of different staff working on equipment and machines, so less cross-contamination,” he said.
Staff are also required to disinfect the machine they’ve used at the end of every shift, as well as washing their hands. “My team has been having lunch outside, rather than sitting together in a confined space indoors,” he says. “This ensures minimal contact among one another.”
Danny said that while travel restrictions are in place for many countries, he is “still hopeful that our June tournament will go ahead as planned.”
Lee Sayers, head groundsman of London Golf Club, has also been communicating guidelines to staff and reinforcing guidelines around hygiene and contact with others and
“We’re currently keeping an open mind in the day-to-day business during this rapidly-changing environment.”
However, Lee is hopeful about his sport. “There is every possibility golf can continue, especially as there are so many other sports activities that are going to be curtailed,” he said.
We’ll continue to provide updates on the impact of the coronavirus on the industry as it happens online at Turf Business.