THE VALUE OF INDEPENDENCE
Is it an important concept to you?
How important is the notion of independence when choosing what companies or industry bodies you do business with?
How important is the notion of independence when choosing what companies or industry bodies you do business with?
Certainly, when your dealings with a firm or body are to gain advice, independence is valuable concept. It's an appealing notion that you are being offered help and guidance free from any interest by the advising party. Or at least you want it to be clear that the advice you are receiving is partisan to some degree - which of course, you may be fully happy with.
What set me thinking about how important independent advice actually is, was a blog post I read at the end of last week by Tim Lodge, founder and director of Agrostis Sports Surface Consulting.
Tim was writing on his company's website, reflecting on his sadness that his former employer the Sports Turf Research Institute, "has seemingly abandoned its claim to be an independent consultancy."
Tim's concern is that the directors of STRI have chosen to form a turf construction company called Carrick Sports Construction Ltd which is to run alongside the institution.
Tim then proposes "Obviously, their consultants and agronomists will now be channelling design specifications towards this company which will consequently enjoy a huge advantage in competitive tendering situations (if tendering is allowed to take place at all)."
Whether that is 100% the case, one can certainly understand that that will now be the perception of STRI.
Tim continues, "This will be very much at the expense of all the other construction companies. The development surely casts doubt over the independence of STRI’s technical advice and their specifications in other areas.”
Tim says that when he joined STRI in 1989, "the pursuit of the science of sports turf for the good of the industry was very much the main objective of the organisation." He explains that, "RIPTA, the Register of Independent Professional Turfgrass Agronomists, was founded in 2002 with a membership that included many of STRI’s agronomists, including me. It was started largely to counter the growing number of so called ‘agronomists’ who were in fact technical sales representatives for companies supplying the sports turf industry.”
"I left STRI in 2005," Tim writes, "but remain in RIPTA to this day having held the position of Treasurer for some years now. In 2016, however, the STRI’s agronomists resigned from RIPTA en masse. It is clear now that the company could no longer satisfy the strict requirement among RIPTA members to be independent. In retrospect, this will have saved us the embarrassment of having to ask them to leave which we would have had to do in the light of the formation of CSC Ltd."
The conclusion Tim reaches is "Consultant independence is vital if our clients are to receive the highest standard of technical advice and information, entirely uninfluenced by our own financial dealings."
He believes the only reliable source now of this kind of sports turf advice is from members of RIPTA - which of course includes his own company.
When any advice is being sought for your business, it's vital to enter the conversation knowing what may be behind the scenes, influencing the guidance received. As long as this is clear, skilled turf professionals should be able to make an informed decision on what's best for their situation.
SIX NATIONS EXPERIENCE FOR WINNERS
Of SALTEX College Cup
Students from CAFRE College in Antrim, Northern Ireland, enjoyed an unforgettable experience of helping with pitch preparations at the 2018 Six Nations Championships at BT Murrayfield Stadium.
After winning the SALTEX College Cup for the second year running, students from CAFRE College in Antrim, Northern Ireland, enjoyed an unforgettable experience of helping with pitch preparations at the 2018 Six Nations Championships at BT Murrayfield Stadium.
SALTEX College Cup winners enjoy Six Nations experience
The SALTEX College Cup, sponsored by Ransomes, and organised by the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG), is a national student-led sports-turf challenge. It is an academic test of turf management knowledge for student competitors who are enrolled at colleges throughout the UK on relevant courses of study. Launched at the show in 2016, CAFRE was the first college to have its name engraved on the trophy and as part of the prize, the winning students were part of the Wembley grounds team at the 2017 FA Cup Final.
CAFRE returned to SALTEX 2017 where they saw off competition from four other colleges to reclaim the trophy. As well as receiving a £500 cheque and £50 Amazon vouchers for each student, the CAFRE team was presented with another prize that money can’t buy - preparing the pitch at the 2018 Six Nations Championships for the Scotland vs England game.
The CAFRE team arrived at BT Murrayfield on the Friday afternoon before Saturday’s match and were soon mowing the pitch - firmly cementing the students’ names on the very small and exclusive list of people to have cut the BT Murrayfield pitch.
After a 7am start on the big day, the CAFRE team were part of the busy yet meticulously planned pitch preparations, and it would not be long before their work would be broadcasted to millions worldwide.
Commenting on the day, CAFRE student Matthew Barr said: “I found the whole experience incredible and one that I will never forget. I also learnt a lot of new techniques that I will be able to implement in my own work.
“My personal highlights of the weekend were being part of the grounds team and watching Scotland beat England for the first time in 10 years - the atmosphere was fantastic! Everyone was so welcoming and friendly.”
Joanne Laing, part of the BT Murrayfield grounds team, was delighted to have the CAFRE students working alongside her: “Hosting the winners of the SALTEX College Cup was something we were really keen to do. Having the opportunity to help develop further some of the most promising students the turf care industry has to offer was a great experience for us.
"The lads demonstrated good knowledge and practical experience and were willing to muck in with the unglamorous jobs associated with event set up. They left us with the assurance that they’d had an educational and enjoyable experience and we enjoyed working alongside them.”
Dan Prest, the IOG’s head of membership services, felt honoured to see such a finely tuned grounds team at work and was quick to thank everyone involved.
“I was amazed by the willingness of the BT Murrayfield grounds team to be here, there and everywhere for the greater good. It really was a case of all hands to the pump but they still gave the CAFRE students the best possible experience.
“Many thanks to Ransomes for their continuing support of this competition, Garry Blackadder, Jim Dawson, Joanne Laing and Alex Latto at BT Murrayfield for their support, work ethic and good nature in allowing the winners of the SALTEX College Cup to assist in a Six Nations’ match that will go down in history.”
All colleges interested in participating in the 2018 SALTEX College Cup should email Dan Prest at email@example.com for more details.
TRAINING NEEDS ANALYSIS PROVES IDEAL
For Uppingham School's grounds team
Grounds manager Mark Burrows says IOG scheme has become part of his annual staff appraisal system and has helped him to map out a personal training and education pathway for his team for the next five years.
The Training Needs Analysis service offered by the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) has proved “the ideal route” for Uppingham School’s grounds team’s ongoing training and education.
Mark Burrows (centre) and Uppingham School’s grounds team
Mark Burrows, grounds manager at the Rutland (Leicestershire) independent boarding school, says the scheme has not only become part of his annual staff appraisal system but it has also helped him to map out a personal training and education pathway for each of the five-strong team (including himself) for the next five years.
The Training Needs Analysis works alongside the IOG’s Pitch Grading Framework, which benchmarks the quality of playing surfaces and creates an education framework to help those responsible to continually improve standards.
In turn, this enables grounds staff to meet both their own and their employer’s goals linked to team skills and the quality of the surfaces they work on. In Uppingham’s case, this means 65 acres of sports fields for rugby, cricket, hockey and lacrosse, for example, as well as synthetic surfaces for hockey, tennis and netball.
After meeting with each of the school’s grounds team members - aged from 23 to 56 and each at a different skill (qualification) level - and discussing career aspirations and suggested learning pathways, the IOG drew up a unique learning plan for every individual, which effectively is a development programme for the whole team.
“As the publicity says, the service was totally unbiased with the IOG recommending a variety of short courses and college options (not just IOG courses) which are suited to each team member,” says Mark, who has been in the industry for 24 years and for past nine years as grounds manager at the school.
“The process took just a day, with each person also having their own input,” he continues.
“Having access to training and education opportunities is an important part of our development as individuals and as a team, and this exercise has effectively lifted a great weight off my shoulders by outlining a comprehensive plan for the future.
“Importantly, too, having such a framework has also meant that we will be able to budget accordingly going forwards.”
Commenting that the service complements Uppingham’s in-house mandatory courses, Mark adds that the results of the Training Needs Analysis also give every team member that little extra incentive - “something achievable to work to in terms of career progression and this can only improve job satisfaction levels”, he says.
AWARD FOR UK SPORTS TURF CONTRACTOR
At U.S show
Golf and sports turf contractor, MJ Abbott Limited, was recognised at Rain Bird’s distributor and contractor awards ceremony held at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio.
Wiltshire-based golf and sports turf contractor, MJ Abbott Limited, was recognised at Rain Bird’s distributor and contractor awards ceremony held at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio.
(L to R) Jim Price, Contracts Manager for MJ Abbott, receives the company’s ‘Top Flight’ award from the Rain Bird Corporation’s Director of Golf and International, J.R. Bergantino, and Jimmy Sandison, Regional Golf Sales Manager for the UK, Ireland, Iceland and Scandinavia
Contracts Director Steve Briggs and Contracts Managers Nathan George and Jim Price were there to accept the ‘Top Flight’ award for exceptional growth on the company’s behalf.
The presentation of awards is a celebratory conclusion to Rain Bird’s training and education event for golf contractors and distributors, which takes place at the show each year.
“2017 was a busy year for us,” Nathan George explained. “Many of our golf customers upgraded their central controllers, weather stations and rotors to provide the greatest efficiencies and levels of control. Our construction teams are currently building the brand new course at Royal Norwich where a fully-integrated Rain Bird IC system is being installed. It was great to hear all about global developments at the training event and to receive this award in recognition of our achievements as an Approved Rain Bird Contractor.”
Rain Bird’s Regional Golf Sales Manager for the UK, Ireland, Iceland and Scandinavia, Jimmy Sandison, said: “It was fantastic to see a UK contractor recognised at our annual awards ceremony. MJ Abbott had a superb year working with us to grow their golf business. As a company, we are grateful for their installation expertise, and for the first-class support they continue to provide to Rain Bird system and Global Service Plan users across the country.”
SENIOR APPOINTMENT AT MTD SPECIALITY TURF PRODUCTS
New Director of Sales and Marketing
New role will see Tony Whelan grow the specialty turf segment of the business, working on both the golf and sports turf sectors.
MTD have announced the appointment of Tony Whelan as the new Director of Sales and Marketing for their Specialty Turf Products division.
This new role will see Tony grow the specialty turf segment of the business, working on both the golf and sports turf sectors.
Tony has worked in the industry for a number of years holding both domestic and international roles in sales and marketing, previously spending 15 years at Rain Bird. Here he was also responsible for working with key accounts including Pebble Beach. Tony also enjoyed over 4 years as Sales Director at Jacobsen where he was involved with distribution, before taking responsibility for the running of the factory-owned stores in the US.
As the Director of Sales and Marketing at MTD Specialty Turf division, he will be looking to develop the current products as well as exploring new opportunities in the market.
Commenting on his appointment, Tony adds “I was approached for this position and it was the product range that really sold the job to me. I spoke to some contacts in the UK about the Cub Cadet INFINICUT and ATT TMSystem, as well as getting feedback on the Cub Cadet RG3 in the States, and everyone said how truly fantastic the products are.
"Joining a company is about more than just good products though and after spending time at the MTD facilities it was clear it operated with a good organisational culture, supported by some great individuals. Having people like John Coleman and Vinny Tarbox driving the products forward is a great plus.
“I’m really excited to leverage my passion and understanding of the industry with a company that are investing in advanced technology and techniques to improve efficiency for the users. As the INFINICUT brand continues to grow in the US, we’ll be looking to explore new opportunities, especially in the baseball market.”
DEALER PLANS GROUNDCARE DEMO DAY
Vincent Tractors to welcome professionals
For the third year running, groundcare machinery supplier Vincent Tractors will be holding a Professional Groundcare Demo Day.
For the third year running, groundcare machinery supplier Vincent Tractors will be holding a Professional Groundcare Demo Day where visitors will be able to put the next generation of lawnmowers and chippers through their paces.
Vincent Tractors will be showcasing its professional range of groundcare equipment from makes such as Kubota, Baroness, Trimax, Stiga, Greenmech, Clubcar, Spider, Ferris and Kersten. There will also be working demonstrations that visitors can try out.
The Vincent Tractors team together with representatives from some of the brands will be on hand to give help and advice.
Jon Day, Groundcare Salesman for Vincent Tractors said, “This popular event continues to grow. This year we will have additional manufacturers present giving our customers and prospective customers a wider range than ever for them to view and try out. We will have some of our popular Kubota and Stiga ride on mowers, as well as more specialised pieces of equipment such as the remote controlled Spider mowers”.
The Professional Groundcare event takes place on 22nd March 2018 between 10.00am and 3.00pm at Gnome World Holiday Park, Indian Queens, TR9 6HN.
To register your interest in attending the event either call Vincent Tractors on 01726 860332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
HONDA OFFERING DISCOUNTS ACROSS MOWER RANGE
Excluding robotic models
Honda (UK) say they are looking ahead to the first cut of the 2018 season by offering consumers savings across its entire range of premium lawn mowers, except robots.
Honda (UK) say they are looking ahead to the first cut of the 2018 season by offering consumers savings across its entire range of premium lawn mowers, excluding robotic models.
Available now from the company's authorised UK dealer network and its online store, the biggest savings are offered on ride-on models - with £400 off across the range, now starting at £2,399.
The company's core pedestrian models now start at £499, with a saving of £100 across the range.
Honda’s best-selling IZY range now starts at £299, with a saving of £65 on all models.
Finally, Honda’s entry level electric lawn mower, the HRE 330, is now available for £109, representing a saving of £80.
The offers run from 1st March - 31st July 2018. When purchasing from Honda’s online store delivery for customers is free of charge, with orders fulfilled by a local dealer who will drop off the machine, set up and ready to get to work, offer a demonstration if required, and take away all packaging materials.
CLUB ENABLES YEAR ROUND PLAY
Chooses new machinery fleet
Tehidy Park Golf Club in Cornwall has chosen Toro for the first time as it takes a new approach, opting for a five-year machinery replacement programme.
Tehidy Park Golf Club in Cornwall has chosen Toro for the first time as it takes a new approach to its course machinery replacement to ensure a better golfing experience for its members, including year-round open play.
Club secretary, Ian Veale, says there were two reasons behind opting for a five-year machinery replacement programme: “In 2017 we received a VAT refund. With the help of that, we decided to invest it into what we believe will bring the most benefit to the club and its members, something everyone will enjoy, and that is new machinery to improve playability and help with the challenging conditions of the course.”
Head greenkeeper Andrew Eddison, pictured on the Groundsmaster 4300-D
Although only two miles from the North Cornwall coast, the 18-hole par 71 course is very much parkland in nature with heavy clay-based soil, and that was an important factor in the decision-making process of what machinery the fleet should comprise. Ian says: “Because of the clay-based soil, drainage is difficult and the course can become water-logged in inclement weather.”
The popular ProCore 648 and ProPass broadcast-style top dresser forms the club’s new renovation fleet and will be used to increase the frequency of its aeration programme. Traditionally held in March and October, the plan is to be more consistent and regular with the aeration and renovation of the course throughout the year.
“We see the Toro ProCore and ProPass top dresser, and a change in the aeration programme, as the key to alleviating the problems that can occur in bad weather, and we see this as something that can easily be achieved with little to no interruption to play. We literally will be preparing for a rainy day!
“If the machinery fleet does this, then it will have been an investment well made. As with most clubs our priority are our members, and if we can improve the terrain so the course is at its optimum throughout the year that’s better for everyone.”
But the order, through dealer Devon Garden Machinery, doesn’t end there, it also includes mowers. A Groundsmaster 4300-D and a Reelmaster 3100-D with Sidewinder, chosen because the club, which is on the County rota as a tournament venue and regularly hosts the Men’s and Women’s Championships will, for the first time, hold both Championships in its centenary year in 2022.
Ian says: “These machines were considered to be the ones to get the grass in the best possible condition for preparations for the all-important year.”
All the machinery chosen was well considered by Ian and head greenkeeper Andrew Eddison to tackle the terrain and bring a new approach to the club’s course maintenance. Ian continues: “It’s the start of a five-year partnership agreement which was not taken on lightly. Andrew and the team spent many months trialing machines here at the course to test their capabilities on this terrain, and their ability to not only keep on top of the course, but make the big changes we want to see, which is what this investment is all about.
“We’re investing in our main asset, which is the course, and it had to be the right decision. Andrew always said he knew Toro was meant to be the best, but the only way to be sure of that was to see it here in action. Toro proved itself, above and beyond the original order, and we have recently purchased another machine.”
AND FINALLY . . .
Groundsman accused of bringing VAR lines to life
Pictures from Abingdon Town FC grabbed attention on social media last week when it was observed that the marked lines resembled the wobbly VAR lines broadcast on TV recently.
Pictures from Abingdon Town FC grabbed attention on social media last week.
In images shared by opponents Burnham FC, it was observed that the pitchside line was somewhat less than straight.
As the Evening Standard pointed out, comparisons were quickly made to the VAR lines televised by BT Sport during the recent FA Cup encounter between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town, when the new virtual referring system was widely ridiculed.
Replying to Burnham FC’s tweet, Erika Robinson joked “did he do the VAR lines the other week too?” while Gareth Belcher told a friend to “have a few of those pints next Friday”
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