Without grounds, the incredible benefits associated with sport will be lost to so many. It’s clear that urgent action is necessary to save grassroots sports pitches and solve our national pitch crisis to making sport possible says the GMA (Grounds Management Association).
As part of its wider report on looking at how the poor maintenance of local grass pitches is putting the survival of sport in the community at risk, the GMA has set out a plan to how to make it happen:
1) Investing in our pitches
The Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme (GaNTIP) is vital to improving our pitches. Through assessing pitches and educating volunteers in how to maintain them, GaNTIP is building the infrastructure within each sport to keep pitches playable. The programme’s work this year assessing 4,508 pitches over the course of 12-months, led to a 42% reduction in cancellations and an 18% increase in capacity. 84 of the pitches have improved in quality, meaning more teams and more matches will now be able to come back to play.
GaNTIP’s work is proven to improve our football and cricket pitches nationally, and keeping Britain playing sport. With further funding, this programme could grow to improve the 38,800 pitches that are currently rated ‘poor’ or ‘basic’ by The FA and GMA National Pitch Grading Framework standards.
2) Real grassroots of sport
A good quality pitch doesn’t happen by accident. The skill, dedication and commitment of sports turf volunteers is often overlooked. Contrary to the stereotypical image of a man on a mower, modern day sports turf management offers an extremely rewarding occupation. Be it at a volunteer or professional level, grounds staff today learn the fundamentals of science, technology and innovation, as well as sports turf and horticulture skills.
Grounds managers integrate with the coaching teams and are a key component of professional sport today. Using data, research and evidence, grounds managers apply their varied knowledge to create the surfaces we enjoy as players.
Yet unfortunately, time is running out to secure the sector’s future, and the result will have serious consequences for sport. The Grounds Management Association found that one in five grounds managers will be leaving the profession in the next 10 years. It’s an ageing sector with many close to retirement. 40% of the workforce is over the age of 50, with the majority also being white and male. On top of this, over two thirds of our vital community grounds volunteers are over 60 and almost all are over 50.19 This crisis further exacerbates the deterioration of pitches.
We need more people to enter the industry, both as professionals and volunteers. But with only 19% of children considering a job in grounds management, (a figure much lower for girls, at 15% compared with 30% for boys), we don’t have the workforce to stop the crisis.
Over 90% of those working in the sector are satisfied or very satisfied with their job. Additionally, over 90% of head grounds staff have worked in the sector for more than 10 years, highlighting high levels of job satisfaction.20 It’s imperative that more sport-loving young people enter the profession, creating a new generation of passionate and dedicated grounds managers.
As well as increasing recruitment in the professional sector, it’s important that more volunteers look to support local pitches, even just for a couple of hours a month.
Whilst play is currently restricted during the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s possible to sign-up with local teams and take specialist online training, to start the volunteering journey right now. Find out more here: www.thegma.org.uk/learning