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IOG Industry Awards Honour UK Grounds Expertise

December 18, 2012

More than 350 of the UK's and Europe's leading groundscare experts from both the professional and volunteer sector, as well as dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators, have honoured the expertise, dedication and passion of the country's grounds profession at the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) annual Industry Awards.

The Oscar-style ceremony at York Racecourse recognised leadership, innovation and outstanding achievement across every aspect of groundscare - from grassroots pitches to professional stadia. These awards also celebrated the quality standards of groundscare achieved in public and private sports venues, and highlighted the progress of young/student grounds professionals as well as entrants' environmental considerations.

Hosted by talkSPORT Radio's Mark Saggers, the sell-out IOG Awards ceremony followed a day-long series of IOG 'Ahead of the Game' Conference presentations by some of the biggest names in the sports, parks and groundscare industry from both sides of the Atlantic.

The winners of the 2012 IOG Industry Awards are:

IOG Sherriff Amenity Most Promising Sportsturf Student of the Year

Winner: Susan Lawrence, University of Nottingham

Finalist: Matthew Porter, Leigh Sports Village, Wigan.

Susan Lawrence is a member of the groundscare team that oversees five sites at the university, and her primary responsibility is the maintenance and renovation of the cricket squares. She won the IOG award based on her enthusiasm for personal development which has seen her attend a Team Leaders course, leading to a City & Guilds qualification. Once she has completed a Level 3 Advanced National Certificate in Sports and Amenity Turf Management she intends to complete a Degree in Sports Turf Science.

IOG Rigby Taylor/Top Green Young Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Luke Dodge, Manchester City FC

Finalist: Paul Baker, Manchester City FC

Based at Manchester City's Carrington training ground, Luke Dodge is currently studying an online Foundation Degree in Turf Science - to add to the NVQ Sportsturf Levels 2 and 3 he already holds, plus PA1, 2 and 6 qualifications. His main role at Carrington is ensuring that all maintenance checks are carried out and accurate records are kept for machinery used on a daily basis.  He's also in charge of running and maintaining the ground's undersoil heating system.

IOG Volunteer Sports Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Rod Heyhoe, Lightcliffe Cricket Club, Halifax

Finalist: Gabe Treharne, Miskin Manor Cricket Club, Nr Llantrisant, Wales

In addition to being responsible for the cricket square, net area, outfield and boundary at Lightcliffe's six-acre site, Rod Heyhoe maintains the ground's entrance and car park areas, and is also the club's general handyman for repairs to the pavilion. He shows "remarkable skill and resource" in keeping the club's machinery in good shape. He joined the club when he was eight years old and he has since made an immense contribution to the club, to the Bradford League and to Yorkshire Cricket.

IOG Grass Roots Sports Ground of the Year

Winner: Stanley Park Sports Ground, Chippenham

Finalist: Aspatria RUFC, Cumbria

The 38-acre Stanley Park ground hosts various sports, including football, as well as other activities, so the key drivers for the groundscare team is not only to keep the pitches looking and playing at their best - and this includes a new 3G surface - but also to enhance the facilities to keep the community engaged and enthused.  Proof that this is, indeed, the case is the fact that 92 teams call Stanley Park their home ground and more than 98 organisations use the facilities. 

Last year, the Chippenham grounds team won the IOG Award for Best Public Sector Outdoor Facility of the Year.

IOG Redexim Charterhouse/Kubota Best Maintained Artificial Pitch of the Year

Winner: Swansea University

Finalist: The Spartans' Community Football Academy, Edinburgh

The facilities at Swansea University include two water-based synthetic pitches and six sand-filled, synthetic tennis courts. These have provided first-class playing surfaces for the students, staff and varying high-profile and community groups. An essential part of the maintenance strategy for the synthetic surfaces is the fact that the university's groundscare team has been appropriately trained in the maintenance and management of such surfaces.

Swansea's groundscare team also won the 2009 IOG Award for Best Maintained Artificial Pitch of the Year.

IOG School, College, University Sports Club Grounds Team of the Year

Winner: King William's College, Isle of Man

Finalist: Charterhouse School, Surrey

Mike Atherton and his three groundstaff lead by example at two Isle of Man sites - King William's College and Buchan School - looking after playing surfaces for rugby, cricket and hockey. While they have made steady and recognised improvements to the playing surfaces, as well as to the planted areas and overall site presentation, they have also done much to improve the development and standing of the team. This includes enhanced health and safety procedures, improved communication (internal and external), focused training, general environmental awareness and improved industry support via local and national manufacturers, dealers, suppliers and organisations.

IOG School, College, University Sports Club Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Michael Hitt, Kingston University

Finalist: Peter Clark, University of Derby

Michael Hitt has been Kingston University's grounds manager for the past six years, during which time he has transformed the facility from being described as being "reasonable" to "excellent". As well as being involved in extensive drainage works, and the demolition and rebuilding of the pavilion and extensive landscaping projects, Michael has also ensured that the playing surfaces have constantly remained at the highest level. This is no mean feat on a 55-acre site that accommodates 14 football pitches, two rugby pitches, a cricket square and a hard court area - plus, new this year, a pitch suitable for American football and lacrosse. 

IOG Governing Bodies Professional Spectator Sports Ground of the Year - co-sponsored by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Football Association, the Football Foundation, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Premier League, the Rugby Football League, the Rugby Football Union and Sport England

Winner: Twickenham Stadium

Finalist: Etihad Stadium, Manchester

After its £76 million makeover - which includes a new £1.2 million Desso pitch with the 2015 Rugby World Cup in mind - Twickenham is now described as the most advanced rugby ground in Europe. Included in the stadium attributes is an environmental agenda that focuses on improving energy efficiency, and resource and waste management performance. In addition, high-density Wi-Fi has been introduced for increased communication with supporters via social media on match days; new TV screens in all concourses for unique content before, during and post matches; mid-tier LED screens (Twickenham has become the first stadium outside of America to use this technology, and ticketless entry systems.

IOG Bayer Professional Sports Ground Team of the Year

Winner: Tottenham Hotspur FC

Finalist: Leeds Rugby

Tottenham Hotspur FC's 27-strong groundscare team adopts a highly professional approach to the maintenance and management of the playing surfaces at the club's White Hart Lane stadium, the new training centre (20 pitches) and at the Spurs Lodge training ground (seven pitches). One reason for the team's expertise is the club's commitment to staff training.

Tottenham's groundscare team won the IOG Best Professional Sports Ground Management Team of the Year Award in 2010.

The IOG Campey/Imants Professional Football Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Jonathan Calderwood, Aston Villa FC

Finalist: Andy Jackson, Stoke City FC

Jonathan Calderwood - who won the 2009 IOG Groundsman's Groundsman of the Year Award  - heads an Aston Villa groundscare team that looks after the stadium pitch as well as the seven full-size grass pitches, three goalkeeping areas, six junior pitches and three full-size 3G synthetic pitches at the club's Bodymoor Heath training ground. With a Higher National Diploma in Sports Turf Science and Sports Ground Management, Jonathan started his career in work placement at the old Wembley Stadium before becoming deputy head groundsman at the site.  He then moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers FC as head groundsman. As well as his current role at Aston Villa, he's also chair of the Head Grounds Managers Group at the European Stadium Safety Managers Association (ESSA) ­-- set up to share ideas and raise the profile of stadia safety issues across the industry.

The IOG Professional Cricket Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Mick Hunt, Middlesex County Cricket Club (Lord's)

Finalist: Steve Birks, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club (Trent Bridge)

Mick Hunt's pragmatism has earned him a reputation as being one of the country's top groundsmen. Now enjoying his 43 rd year at Lord's, the 'home of cricket', he consistently produces flawless top-class wickets. This he achieves without formal training in pitch maintenance and management, but rather by applying his natural ability and his knack of knowing what needs to be done to the pitch and when. Even though Mick says he "has learned as I've gone along", behind that sentiment is an obvious wealth of knowledge and experience that is revered by cricket groundsmen the world over. Why else would Australian groundsmen choose to spend a six-month 'sabbatical' as part of Mick's team?

The IOG Professional Rugby Union Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Keith Kent, Twickenham Stadium

Finalist: Greg Smith, Nottingham Rugby Club

As an experienced grounds professional, Keith Kent is revered throughout the sports groundscare industry and says his aim is simple: "To have the best rugby pitch in the world.  The pitch is prepared for each game as though it were the next World Cup final," he adds. Keith and his team of two groundstaff are also responsible for the upkeep of the ground's car parks, trees and flower beds at the 28-acre site.

The IOG Everris/Syngenta Professional Rugby League Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Keith Porter, Leigh Sports Village, Wigan

Finalist: Leigh Beattie, Bradford Bulls

In his fifth year at Leigh Sports Village, Keith Porter consistently produces top-class playing surfaces on both natural and artificial turf at the 6.5-acre site; the Village Stadium pitch and three rugby league pitches. Indeed, the stadium pitch is widely recognised as one of the best in rugby league, while the community pitches are considered among the best in the country as a result of his work.

The IOG John Deere Professional Horse Racing Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Shaun Reilly, Huntingdon Racecourse

Finalist: Mark Bemrose, Musselburgh Racecourse, Scotland

Shaun Reilly manages a team of three full-time staff (plus one casual worker) at the 210-acre Huntingdon Racecourse, which currently hosts 18 race meetings each year. In addition to ensuring that the racetrack itself is maintained to a high standard and liaising with the Clerk of the Course and the Inspector of Courses, Shaun is also responsible for budgets and for the management of his groundscare team - which includes their training and development.

The IOG Professional Tennis Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Neil Harvey, The Hurlingham Club, London

Finalist: Ian Wall, Bank of England Sports Centre, Roehampton, London

Neil Harvey is part of the Fulham club's groundscare team that, in addition to 52 tennis courts, also maintains a host of croquet lawns and a cricket square, as well as a large area of shrubs, bedding and 600 mature trees and rose gardens. In addition to use by club members, the grounds are frequently open to community-related events, so Neil and team often have their hands full coping with the resultant pressure while maintaining first-class playing surfaces.

The Hurlingham Club won the Employer of the Year Award at the 2010 IOG Industry Awards.

IOG Ransomes Jacobsen Environmental Project/Innovation of the Year

Winner: Forest Green Rovers FC, Nailsworth, Glos

Finalist: Northumberland Cricket Groundstaff Association

As a result of a complete review that embraced all grounds maintenance routines and pitch development, plans were put in place to improve all appropriate activities at Forest Green Rovers. The result includes the fact that the club became the first football club in the world to be accredited under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. This was achieved through the use of solar-powered equipment, sustainable line marking, photo voltaic panels, a ground-based solar system and the transition to having a totally organic football pitch where artificial chemicals are avoided. The club is now working towards becoming 100 per cent sustainable and efficient in the way it manages and implements all its operations.

The Alex R Millar DLF/Johnsons Groundsman of the Year

Winner: Keith Kent, Twickenham Stadium

Keith Kent says his aim is simple: "To have the best rugby pitch in the world.  The pitch is prepared for each game as though it were the next World Cup final."

The IOG Cleveland Land Services/AFT Trenchers Lifetime Achievement

Winner: Eddie Seaward

Eddie Seaward is widely known and revered throughout the groundscare industry through his role as head groundsman for the past 22 years at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club - home of the Wimbledon tournament. He has been involved in the groundscare industry for 53 years, starting when he was 15 years old when he joined the grounds staff at an independent boarding school.

He then became head groundsman, at 24 years of age, of the Civil Service Sports Ground in Portsmouth then, in 1978, an instructor in groundscare at a community school in Berkshire.

After two years he was appointed head groundsman at the Recreational Society Sports Ground at Aldermaston. During his nine years there Eddie took an active interest in developing the COSHH hazardous substances regulations and other safety initiatives, as well as helping to establish the foundations of the NVQ system.

He joined the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1990 and was head groundsman there until his retirement this year.

At Wimbledon he has not only been responsible for the world-renowned courts, but he has also been heavily involved in many developments at the ground - including the construction of a new Number One Court and the redevelopment of Centre Court with its retractable roof.

Eddie has been a member of the IOG for more than 50 years and in 2009, was appointed Patron of the institute and made a Fellow Member. Over the years he has been involved in many aspects of IOG administration at local branch, region and national levels, and has worked with members and the executive staff on many initiatives.

Throughout his 53 years in the industry, Eddie says he has seen numerous changes, which have provoked many discussions. Commenting on his groundscare career, he said: "While they have certainly been challenging years, I can honestly say they have been a source of constant interest."

The prestigious UK-wide IOG Award scheme highlights the high standards of volunteer and professional grounds professionals and facilities, from grass roots to professional stadia level. The awards are judged by an independent panel on criteria that included effective use of resources, budgetary control, presentation and housekeeping standards, as well as environmental considerations.

The IOG is the leading membership organisation for everyone involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities - the annual awards embrace categories of entry covering sport, young people and the environment.

The 2012 Awards are sponsored by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, AFT Trenchers, Bayer, Campey Turf Care Systems, Cleveland Land Services, DLF Trifolium, the England and Wales Cricket Board, Everris, the Football Association, the Football Foundation, Imants BV, John Deere, Johnsons Sports Seed, Kubota, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Premier League, Ransomes Jacobsen, Redexim Charterhouse, Rigby Taylor, Rugby Football League, Rugby Football Union, Sherriff Amenity, Sport England, Syngenta and Top Green.

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