Building on the success of last years Madrid event, this second truly international event really did deliver on possible solutions to some of the industry’s leading talking points and problems. But it brought so much more in terms of engaging the great and the good of the turf professional world.
It was a social event not to be missed – it could also be called a celebration of the sector – a joining together of turf family values, aspirations and dreams. A chance to help lay down the roots of an exciting and vibrant future for this unique and talented field of expertise.
From a fascinating tour of the Quinta Do Lago resort, and boy, there are some world class facilities throughout the complex, to the five star delights of the elegant Monte Da Quinta hotel, the hospitality was warm, welcoming and superb in every way. The mid-event dinner at the resort’s Bovino Steakhouse, gave everyone a chance to forget about work for a short while, make new friendships, strengthen old ones and soak up the magical atmosphere. But the impressive list of sponsors hadn’t put their money into a social event – their ongoing support really will facilitate greater involvement from turf professionals in the ongoing decision making process. As you’re about to discover – this is a long term investment.
There was of course a more serious side to proceedings with attendees invited to use their professional knowledge and expertise, to the benefit of colleagues across the UK. And naturally, the insight offered by European delegates into how they tackle similar issues in their own regions was priceless in its impact. There was even a brilliant presentation on mental health involving Keiron Sparrowhawk from Mycognition, to remind everyone human beings need looking after by employers, to get the best out of themselves. Turf Business discovered Arsenal’s Steve Braddock is a leader, in this much needed modern approach to the work-life balance.
The spectacle of seeing so many talented professionals mixing, meeting and exchanging ideas made for an awe inspiring experience. Trending research methodology brilliantly orchestrated by Research Engine and the Turf Business team, pinpointed with military precision, what the biggest concerns were in terms of what needed to be discussed. Guests were placed in eight separate teams – each charged with discussing the topics given to them, with the goal of bringing ongoing key solutions to a final day presentation.
The team ethic was certainly highlighted, and it was staggering to see almost all delegates admit to working much more than official contracted hours, or not taking holidays simply to get their tasks done as professionally as possible. Long hours in all weathers and, in many cases, without extra financial reward. ‘Team Toil’, were very clear. Forming a succesful strategy that keeps in place through all levels of our industry, shared as a forward thinking programme in each individual venue, through upper management, chairmen, boards of directors and HR, was essential. Good management, sensible delegation and education would all need to play a part.
Les Howkins from the Richmond Golf Club spoke on behalf of another group, to suggest a multi-faceted approach, with pay structures in mind. This might see employers buying into new salary scales and bonus frameworks, in order to improve the general differences in terms of financial rewards.
From funding, sponsorship and devising a plan to assess potential skills in view of developing talent, to recycling water practices and rain harvesting, the offered solutions were exceptionally impressive.
The charismatic Alison Robinson from Myerscough College and University Centre, was invited to present suggested solutions to end confusion over education pathways. She told Summit: “We need an agreed matrix of qualifications covering all pathways involving apprentices, short courses via colleges and training providers. All courses should be recognised against the national qualifications framework from levels one to nine, so everyone knows the equivalency and progression pathways able to be taken.”
A focus was placed on a potential results and rewards based pilot scheme to aid pitch improvement in grass-roots. ‘The Tree Huggers’, employed effervescent Amii Attard from Intelligent Play, to deliver their recommendations around attracting recruits from a wide range of backgrounds.
‘Passion’, is the word needed to sum up this whole event – from people who really care about each other and their business. In fact, the Editor of Turf Business was particularly impressed by Ipswich Town’s Benjamin Connell, who bluntly asked what the publication was going to do about highlighting the dangers of new technology being responsible for possibly putting some people out of work. “Well, lets help find a good balance was the reply.” The whole brief conversation was refreshing in its openness and honesty, around what people really feel about such topics on a day to day basis. Politicians please note!! It’s fantastic listening to forcible points, actually feeling people’s real frustrations and worries.
There were many such conversations around various themes, and a long chat with Wembley’s Karl Standley, revealed a glimpse into the life of an amazing role model. A young dedicated family man, with solid values, excellent management skills and a vision. The future of the industry is in safe hands, even though attracting young people into the profession is a major concern. It would seem Gareth Southgate isn’t alone in realising young professionals are the way forward to success. But you won’t see this highlighted in the mainstream media. Why? Because the industry, and those magnificent individuals in and around it, are grossly undersold. That has to, and will change is the back story emerging from the workshops. Not just a talking shop – but solid and workable solutions able to be implemented here and now.
In short, the second Turf Business Summit was a powerful reminder, everyone working in this sparkling area of expertise, can really make a difference, when coming together as one family. Left with the feeling this event is set to grow hugely year on year – those strategies and solutions both formulated and presented, are set to kick on as this was being written. They may not all be successful, but governing bodies and employers will surely take note.
One of Europe’s top golf resorts may yet go down in years to come as the venue where the turf industry began to help implement serious change.