Plan unveiled for pitch standard

Institute of Groundsmanship chief says sports ground benchmarking system is being considered.

Webb: simpler scheme needed - image: IOG
Webb: simpler scheme needed - image: IOG

Grounds staff and their pitches are being lined up for a raft of Kitemark-type professional standards to ramp up their status and influence at the highest political levels.

Institute of Groundsmanship (IoG) chief executive Geoff Webb said the body was looking at setting up a benchmarking system of minimum standards for pitches and those who look after them. The idea was at concept stage and included four grades.

"We want feedback on how to quantify facilities," he told the IoG annual conference and awards last week. "We are looking at launching a framework and benchmarking for facilities and the person working there. It's like a Kitemark of quality."

He said existing professional quality standards tend to be too complicated. A new system needs to be simpler and move away from penalising those who fall short. This would make the system attractive and encourage industry buy-in.

Foundation level could be for voluntary sports clubs and encourage short courses in turf maintenance, he said. Intermediate levels 1 and 2 would be for professional clubs with apprentices, while an advanced level could be for elite clubs and pitches.

This mirrors similar moves for landscape contractors, with BALI and land skills sector council Lantra looking at a similar industry-led training framework.

Webb argued that the national governing bodies should pay more attention to the quality and quantity of maintenance of playing surfaces and said the industry needs to be heard at the "higher echelons".

He added: "I'm not talking about the managers I see throughout the year but directors and chief executives of groups like Sport England. They should understand what we do."

Young IoG board of directors chair John Ledwidge told more than 240 delegates at York Racecourse that the industry needs "sexing up" to break free of downbeat stigmas and stereotypes.

A unified strategy and framework are crucial to extend influence and recruit younger generations to the sector, he said. The Olympics have given strong industry momentum and been a "fantastic platform to put us on the international stage".

Benchmark grades

Foundation level - For voluntary sports clubs and to encourage short courses in turf maintenance.

Intermediate levels 1 and 2 - For professional clubs with apprentices.

Advanced level - For elite clubs and pitches.

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