Looking after a football pitch is a high-pressure business when the turf you’ve treated, mowed, nurtured and manicured is seen by thousands of spectators at the ground – even more so if the match is televised. Providing a top-quality playing surface is an everyday reality for Grounds Manager John Ledwidge and his team at Leicester City Football Club’s King Power Stadium and the nearby training ground. John Ledwidge explains how he maintains the high standards at the club and comments on a recent footwear trial they undertook.
We are a unified team focusing on pitch care and landscaping at both sites. In 2015 and most recently this year, we won the prestigious Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) Professional Football Grounds Team of the Year award, evidence of our dedication and skill. Britain leads the way in pitch care, management and design with science, technology and the latest machinery widely used to plan and improve the quality of the playing surface in football. But with this comes a real health and safety requirement for its groundsmen. Callum Allsop, Head Groundsman at the training ground said “We prepare a safe and playable surface for the players but we also have to stay safe and protected.”
Typical working pattern
The football season begins in mid-August and completes mid-May, but summer isn’t all rest and holiday. During summer, pitches are renovated, reseeded and once the seed come through, it’s back to daily mowing and turf care. My team endure hot sun and cold frosts in equal measure throughout the year, with nearly all their time spent outside. Safety clothing and footwear protection play an important part so they can keep safe, dry and comfortable during work. On any given day, regardless of weather, we may be brushing off morning dew, power washing machinery clean, mowing in wet conditions or long grass and carrying out irrigation work, sometimes walking up to 14 miles a day.
In 2015 HAIX safety shoe manufacturer, in close partnership with W.L. Gore and Associates (UK) Limited created new leather and textile boot designs under the name, Black Eagle 50 Mid utilising GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort product technology.
These lightweight boots feature a unique lacing system, which ensures that laces do not dangle into mud or water when putting on or taking off the footwear. It is rated to standard EN ISO 20345:2011 safety footwear for professional use with the classification 1 of S3. S3 classified boots offer basic requirements for a safety boot, as well as closed and energy absorbing seat region, antistatic, protection from water penetration and absorption, penetration resistant and cleated sole.
Gore and Haix offered us a wearer trial of the HAIX GORE-TEX® Black Eagle 50 Mid boot, with all the team testing the boots from January to March 2017. (In fact, the boots are still in active service and worn daily by us.)
Questionnaire Results and Comments
After three months, questionnaires were completed by the team to provide honest and detailed feedback on the performance of the boots. Feedback showed that 100% found the boots waterproof, with 80% saying sweat levels were far less than in previous boots they’d worn. 100% found the weight of the boot good or very good, thus avoiding tired and heavy feet. 90% said temperature was pleasant when indoors and also when outdoors in varying temperatures. 100% found the comfort of the footwear good or very good and all found them better than their previous boots. Asked to comment on re-drying qualities, replies included “always dry by morning”. The whole team said they would recommend the boots to colleagues.
Paul Billington, a groundsman at the club for the last 18 years said: “they’re a lot better than any I’ve had before. The rest either hurt your heels or made your feet ache. My feet were cold in winter in previous boots, but fine in these.”
Groundsman Nick George stated: “In icy conditions they’re much better underfoot, they’re very grippy and hard-wearing and they also keep the water out. So you might come in and my feet will still be roasting even though it’s freezing outside.”
My groundsmen put these boots through their paces and the results speak for themselves with positive feedback from the team, who appreciated the science behind the durable and breathable waterproof GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Technology. It seems that having the right boots makes a massive difference and I believe happier people produce better work.
CHECK OUT THE LANDSCAPER’S DIGITAL FOOTPRINT