A chilling blast
by TurfPro Editor, Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR
Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR

Before I get into it today, I’d just like to draw your attention to a new feature we have kicking off this issue.


From today we are delighted to bring you regular articles focusing on turf professionals working in the Republic of Ireland written by our incredibly knowledgeable Ireland editor, Alan Mahon. Many of you might know Alan from his years editing the magazine for the Irish greenkeeping association, the GCSAI. In more recent times he is the editor of one of our sister titles, Service Dealer Ireland.

Alan will be bringing us in-depth stories of the professional turf care scene across the Irish sea every on a regular basis, giving us insight into how our Irish colleagues are facing up to the common challenges which we are all facing. 

Speaking of which, the weather and the pandemic continue to be in the news! Storm Darcy has delivered a bitterly cold weather front across most parts of the country, with some areas receiving up to 200mm of snow, with snow drifts being formed by high winds. This current cold spell will no doubt affect and prevent a number of grounds activities being undertaken.



However, there are plenty of other jobs that can be undertaken. I notice a lot of golf courses are carrying out tree maintenance work, making good use of the down time from general maintenance duties. Felling, crown lifting and thinning of tree plantations is a good job to be undertaken - also an excuse to have a good bonfire and keep warm during this cold spell.

Last week I enjoyed watching the start of the annual Six Nations Rugby Tournament, with Scotland , Wales and France winning their first round of matches. All three stadiums’ pitches performed well. Jim Buttar, head groundsman at Twickenham, along with staff Ian and Andy, had particularly worked miracles, having only just resown the pitch back in December.

It is a credit to their skills, dedication and the use of modern pitch renovation techniques that now allow stadium grounds professionals to produce a playable pitch within 8-12 weeks.

The pandemic is still very much in the news, with lockdown continuing and travel restrictions in place. I, like many of us, am looking forward to the date when we can get back to some sort of normality where we are able to meet fellow professionals and start seeing sport being played again, particularly at grass roots levels.  


Amenity Forum Updating Events

On 9th February I, along with sixty plus industry amenity professionals, attended one of the first free Updating Events. A Zoom-style meeting, it was designed for all involved with, or with an interest in, amenity management. 



In his brief introduction, the ever-present Professor John Moverley, said, “For everyone engaged in amenity management, these are really important times. The pandemic and all its consequences will have a long-lasting impact on everyone - and those engaged in managing amenity spaces are certainly not exempt from this. What has been demonstrated is the essential nature of much of the work we undertake - especially in seeking to keep parks, transports networks, sports surfaces etc. safe and healthy and fit for purpose. However, nobody can predict with certainty the future. With an economy under real stress and unemployment up, there will be fewer resources available and certainly changes in patterns of use of amenity spaces”.

Challenging times for us all. We soon got down to business with presentations by Keith Dixon from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), who gave an update on matters concerning the legislation around pesticide usage in the UK. 



2021 has seen the UK fully depart from the EU, bringing with it new regulations on plant protection products. The UK is also issuing a new national action plan relating to amenity management in 2021. Just these two items present challenges and opportunities to overcome in the coming months.

John Moverley then addressed the meeting stating the importance of the roll the Amenity Forum plays in terms of setting up and addressing the Amenity Standards required to comply with government legislation when it comes to the handling, storing and the use of pesticides in the amenity sector. He was also keen to mention a very important survey being undertaken by government (delivered by Fera Science Ltd) to gain information on the amount of pesticides used, the different types and categories and also a little additional information on numbers of sprayers, qualified staff etc. It is vitally important that the sector fully supports this work as it will form the basis for future policy, strategic decisions and it will provide valuable information for use across the sector. The survey can be completed here



Next up was Stuart Ball from John Chambers Wildflowers who gave a talk on the popularity of wildflower mixes in recent years and the importance they bring to help create and improve the diversity of our landscape and provide valuable food source and habitats for insects.  There are now a wide range of wildflower / flora mixes now available in both seed, plug and carpeted form to help establish new plantings. 

We then had a breakout session to discuss some industry issues that were fed back to the Amenity Forum team which largely stated we need to be better at communicating the professionalism of our industry. 


This point was reiterated by John Moverley as part of his closing speech. ‘’The important and essential nature of amenity management may be something those engaged in it understand but we must ensure that message is articulated clearly and strongly to all, especially the public and policy makers. Everyone involved should be immensely proud of what they do but now is the time to say it loud. There may be critical times ahead, but working together the sector can face such times and be successful, of that I have no doubt’’.

The National Action Plan will be the key focus at a series of free Updating Events being held by the Amenity Forum over the coming weeks. They are half day long, free, open to all and are run entirely online. It is really important that those engaged in, or with an interest in, amenity management are fully aware of the potential changes and express their views. These free events will provide this. For details of registration, please contact Kate at The remaining dates  available are February 23rd, 25th and March 4th.


Grassroots concerns

Finally my last piece of news relates to a news story about the concerns of David James seen in The Guardian that Grassroots football clubs have lost 48% of their income since the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The former England goalkeeper warns “we are going to lose a generation of football participants” if something is not done.

Another report suggests that more than 5,000 grassroots football clubs will cease to exist as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study, entitled The Final Whistle For Grassroots Football, found that 96% of clubs in the UK have seen a reduction in income in the last year.


I totally agree with these reports. Grass roots sports across the board - football, rugby, tennis, cricket and bowls - all face a similar scenario. With no competitive sport being played, no regular use of the facilities will have dramatically affected clubs’ incomes. To add to the woe, many youngsters will have no doubt found other pastimes to keep them amused and occupied during the pandemic. The unknown question will be how many of them will bother to return, or indeed will be lost to the sport for good?

We will not know the true effect of this pandemic until 2022. I personally would agree we could lose up to 12% of these clubs. These grass roots clubs are essentially hubs of the community and we need the government to recognise the importance of them and support a programme of investment once this pandemic is over to ensure they can remain active and viable for the next generation of youngsters. 

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