Preview 2009: Turfcare

Boom time for football groundsmen but the golf sector suffers

Turf-care professionals believe that the sector is in good shape to weather the current economic storms.

Institute of Groundsmanship (IoG) chief executive Geoff Webb said that in both the private and public sectors the profession was relatively secure - at least for the immediate future.

"Most private sports grounds have to maintain high standards," he said. "Similarly, colleges and schools use their sports facilities as an inducement to attract new students: this is not likely to change."

However, he added that some local authorities and state schools would be likely to reduce staffing in an attempt to save money.

He said the situation is being aggravated by the high costs of fuel and fertiliser, which are putting further pressure on the owners of sports grounds.

Football groundsmen, however, could be entering a boom time, Webb said. With international demand for top-quality pitches - and the increasing use of complex heating and UV lighting systems - foreign football teams could soon be head-hunting highly trained English staff.

Webb predicted that senior groundsmen, working as consultants, could soon be making six-figure salaries. "It's only a matter of time," he said.

Some general grounds managers might delay machinery purchases. Horticulture Week technical editor Sally Drury warned: "Most machinery is bought or leased as part of a rolling programme. Managers might try to keep machinery working beyond its normal life."

Despite the relatively optimistic outlook, many golf greenkeepers are cautious. Golf membership is falling and club revenues are dropping.

British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association communications manager Scott MacCallum said: "We've had double whammy. We've had two wet summers and now we're faced with a credit crunch." He warned that a steady trickle of professionals were leaving the profession - often to work in landscaping or contract gardening.

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