Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe will address project maintenance funds

Minister for sport Gerry Sutcliffe MP has pledged to address the issue of maintenance budgets for high-profile sports facilities.

He was speaking at the Institute of Groundsmanship's (IOG's) conference and inaugural awards last week, held at Arsenal FC's Emirates Stadium.

He told delegates that maintenance budgets was the big message from the day. "It's vital to provide in-built, sustainable maintenance funds in new projects. I'm going to take away the sustainability of maintenance budgets as an issue for the Government," he said.

The topic was raised during a panel debate in which delegates, including Local Government Association vice-chairman Ian Mearns, said that too often there was funding for new facilities but no budget for maintenance of existing ones.

Sutcliffe's speech to the membership marked a significant coup for the IOG, whose theme for the day was "Challenging Perceptions", an attempt to address the view that groundsmanship is a misunderstood, poorly perceived profession.

Sutcliffe added: "The IOG is doing a fantastic job of promoting the industry. I believe that partnerships are important; we need wider co-operation and coordination and we will only be successful if we work together."

IOG chief executive Geoff Webb and Sheffield Hallam University's Richard Moore presented further findings of their industry research.

Following last year's research that found groundsmen were underpaid, under-trained and underrated, this year they looked at how senior managers understood and valued their grounds staff and how perceptions of groundsmanship fared compared to similar professions.

Taylor said: "There is still a negative and simplistic perception of the industry by a significant minority of general managers, other staff and the general public."

Top awards for Groundsman's Groundsman of the Year went to Aston Villa's Jonathan Calderwood, while Arsenal's Steve Braddock took the lifetime achievement gong.

For pictures from the IOG Conference and Awards, visit the Horticulture Week picture gallery.


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