Covid-19's impact on our sector
by TurfPro Editor, Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR
Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR

I do not think we could have foreseen or comprehended the recent extraordinary events that have plagued our sports turf industry this winter - and indeed life as we know it.

The year began with the record breaking levels of rainfall and floods we had to contend with followed by coming into a spring of completely unheralded challenges with the spread of this devastating Covid-19 virus.

Nobody knows how this is going to pan out. Our government is playing a waiting game to reduce the impact of this terrible virus. Already we have seen the cancellation of many large sporting events, notably the closure of all premiership fixtures, six nation rugby matches and even this year’s London Marathon.


Matters have further been compounded with the announcement by our Prime Minister Boris Johnson effectively banning mass gatherings in the UK amid the coronavirus outbreak - canceling all remaining sporting events.

Johnson said that from Tuesday 17th March mass gatherings requiring emergency workers are something "we are now moving emphatically away from". He added that social venues, including pubs, should be closed.

This news was soon followed by another announcement from The Rugby Football Union who has suspended all levels of the game in England until 14 April because of coronavirus.

The announcement came soon after the Premiership was halted for five weeks.

The RFU said all activity, including club training, league and cup matches, and rugby education courses, should be stopped.

The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, scheduled for 3, 4 and 5 April, have also been postponed.

The Pro14 and Top 14 leagues were suspended indefinitely last week.



The RFU said its decision to suspend all rugby activity came after Monday's government advice, which included avoiding "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

The Scottish Rugby Union has announced that it has set aside £500,000 to help struggling clubs deal with the catastrophic impact of the coronavirus.

The Club Hardship Fund will aim to "offer financial assistance to grassroots clubs facing cashflow and immediate financial challenges" during the ongoing crisis, with Scotland's domestic season now put on hold until March 29. 

In a statement, Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said: "These are unprecedented times and we are acutely aware of the significant day to day financial challenges our member clubs will face in the coming weeks if fixtures cannot be resumed in the mid to long term and other planned fund-raising initiatives are curtailed.

Asked how long the new advice on avoiding social contact will last for, UK chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty says it will be a "minimum of weeks to months".


"Depending how it goes it, it may be longer," he added.

He says it is important that people realise the measures will need to be in place for the "long haul" if the National Health Service is to be protected. "We've got to see this as a long game," he said.

There are so many decisions to be made on the way forward. Each and every country is dealing with it in their own way. The consequences of this pandemic will be huge, costly and no one could doubt it will have a damaging effect on our industry, economy and way of life.


Every major sporting body and professional sporting club is working hard behind the scenes to reduce the impact of this virus. I have spoken to several groundsmen and contractors this past week and asked how the virus will continue to affect them? The simple answer is they are not sure. Many are still awaiting a decision from government on what sanctions need to be undertaken.

Others have decided to lock down their facilities and allow no access.

So, what can that mean in the short and long term?

I would expect at the elite level, groundsmen will be expected to continue maintaining their sports facilities both at the stadium and training grounds. However, there may be some restrictions on working hours, movement and deliveries.

There will be many questions that need to be answered in terms of will the premiership be concluded or indeed extended, that will have knock affects as to whether or when the club may get their pitches renovated?


Similarly, will the Six Nations be concluded or postponed? We await with bated breath.


At the moment I am sure there are plenty of sports turf contractors, waiting for some clarity on what the clubs will need and when. Obviously this will have a knock-on effect on their work loads, planning and travel arrangements, and whether they will be able to source and obtain the necessary materials and products to do the work.

Premier Pitches, the sports turf contractors, released a statement for their customers 

Like many businesses the supply and demand of products and services will be severely affected by the continued spread and effects of this virus. I recently spoke to several of machinery dealers at a recent Makita Trade day who said it been one of the toughest years for trading already. A very wet winter has delayed the spring sales of machinery and the virus is likely to hold off any predicted recovery along with the fact that it may become difficult to get spares and machinery from overseas suppliers.



This has been backed up by a recent article written by my colleague Alan Mahon for the Service Dealer Ireland magazine who wrote an interesting piece stating that there is no doubt that the Coronavirus has done a lot of damage to the global economy. 

The British and international Golf Greenkeeping association (BIGGA) has also announced their guidelines on dealing with the virus to safeguard the welfare of its members and gold clubs 

As for Local authorities, APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) have announced their support measures in response to COVID 19 outbreak.


There is no doubt that the Coronavirus has done a lot of damage to the global economy. It has affected energy prices, supply chains, restaurants, hotels, airlines and autos to name but a few. My hope is that this virus will eventually fade out with the onset of warmer weather.

If that is the case, normal life as we know it could resume in the next few months. Just remember the life goes on and we are very good at adapting to change. In the meantime, observe the precautions and guidelines for Coronavirus. Visit the HSE website


I personally think The UK government is doing a remarkable job in the circumstances and we all should follow their guidelines and do our bit to limit the spread of this terrible virus.

Please stay safe and remain positive for us all.

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