Seabrook on... better pay for grounds staff

Sports-turf staff, groundsmen and women, pitch and greenkeepers all deserve more money. It is outrageous that we have excessively overpaid sportsmen and women and, in many cases, too-low-paid professionals who care for the turf on which games are played.

I have lobbied fellow journalists contributing to sports pages for more coverage of grass cultivation for years, so far to no avail. It is only when turf is unsatisfactory, as at Wembley Stadium earlier this year, that column inches and critical headlines are directed at the playing surface.

Cultivating turf for sports use and its subsequent daily care is now very high tech. Expensive stadia have to accommodate a multiplicity of events, putting tough demands on the grass and those who look after it.

Once a Premier League pitch has carried a game, groundsmen have to replace divots, hover-mow to sweep up debris and lift the grass, then pedestrian mow before watering and providing light for dark winter days.

Soil has given way to sand and gravel growing media, which are reinforced with man-made elastic fibres to provide perfect pitches. But it is hard work. Turf professionals have to put in long hours — 80-hour weeks are not unknown — often at antisocial times. They need considerable skills and experience to provide good surfaces for Test matches and international competitions.

When cricket commentators spend so much time talking about the condition of the pitch, why is the person who knows most about it not seen and heard? Their hard work cutting greens just before tournaments can make golf balls roll faster, while the length of grass on football pitches can, and does, affect a game.

More than £500,000 is being spent on cricket outfields, so why don't we hear more about this kind of expenditure from the people who look after it?

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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