Philip Swan, volunteer at the Bridge Trust Society was recognised collected IOG’s 2017 Redexim Charterhouse/Kubota Volunteer Sports Groundsman of the Year Award.
In a prestigious ceremony at the National Conference Centre, within the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham hosted by talkSPORT radio presenter Mark Saggers, the award was presented to Philip by Curtis Allen, Redexim Charterhouse’s business development manager, and Andy Southerton, Kubota’s dealer manager, groundscare, in front of an audience of almost 700 of the UK’s and Europe’s leading groundscare experts, as well as dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators.
The Bridge Trust Society’s 7.5-acre sports ground is unique, says Philip, because it is triangular in shape and bounded on all sides by railway lines, with access via a private level crossing.
Philip took over as groundsman seven years ago, with he adds “another equally inexperienced volunteer”. Since then, whenever a member of the club retires, they are recruited to join Philip’s team – which currently numbers six and all with varying levels of experience.
Led by Philip, the team is charged with the upkeep of the right of way and the maintenance of the clubhouse, two pavilions, the score box and a garage, in addition to two football pitches, a cricket square and nets plus two five-a-side training pitches.
A regular programme of mowing, seeding and fertilisation keeps all the playing surfaces in pristine condition, with continual improvement in, for example, the football pitches thanks to regular cutting, chain harrowing and more particularly spring fertilising and seeding, plus autumn fertilisation.
The cricket square has been improved, says Philip, through the use of a softening chemical along with regular scarification, aeration, fertilisation, seeding and the application of loam.
The remainder of the ground is cut twice a week in summer, while the tree lines are trimmed and the 165 trees tended.
One team member is allocated to the cricket square, which is prepped for three games a week on eight tracks. The home club plays on Saturdays and the pitch is hired out on Sundays, plus there are various T20 midweek fixtures.
In winter, the pitches are used by two of the Society’s five teams on Saturdays and the surfaces are rented out to four teams on Sundays.
Organised by the IOG – the leading membership organisation for everyone involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities – the annual awards embrace categories of entry covering sport, young people and the environment.
The awards highlight the high standards of volunteer and professional groundsmanship, from grassroots to professional stadia level. They are judged by an independent panel on criteria that include effective use of resources, budgetary control, presentation and housekeeping standards, as well as environmental considerations.
Commenting on the high standard of award winners, IOG chief executive Geoff Webb, says: “With a record number of entries, this year’s awards continue to demonstrate the skills and passion of groundsmanship throughout the UK, at both voluntary and professional level.
“Winning an award is testament to the dedication of the grounds teams and individuals whose ability to produce and maintain ever-improving playing surfaces – which enables more games to take place – goes largely unnoticed.”
With headline sponsorship by Rigby Taylor and Top Green, the 2017 IOG Industry Awards are also sponsored by the AELTC, CubCadet Infinicut, DLF, ECB, The FA, GrassMaster, Growth Products, Headland Amenity, John Deere, Johnsons Seeds, Kubota, the LTA, Mansfield Sand, the Premier League, Ransomes, Redexim Charterhouse, the RFL, the RFU, Rigby Taylor, SGL, SISGrass, Toro and Top Green.