Grasping the effects on our industry
by TurfPro Editor, Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR
Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR

I believe the government is doing a fantastic job in trying to halt the spread and eventually stop this devasting coronavirus. With the announcement of the lockdown we can all now effectively help reduce the number of cases and help the NHS to cope with the predicted peak in the coming weeks.

The fact that the clocks went forward this weekend and we are having a decent spell of warm dry weather, will hopefully help the current situation and keep everybody focused on Staying at Home. Let’s hope this may be the turning point of this horrendous winter and we if we all do as we are told we will be on the right track to getting to the end of this terrible virus and we can start to get on with our lives.

I don’t think we can comprehend the size and scale of this current situation and it will no doubt take longer than people think to get back to anything near normality.

It will be interesting to find out what businesses are allowed to remain open in the coming months and what work can be achieved within our turf grass industry.

As we all know, the grass doesn’t stop growing, so there will be many groundsmen and greenkeepers getting on with their jobs as best has they can. I have been ringing around a number of industry grounds people to see how they have been affected.


Last week, I spoke to James Mead, grounds manager at Rugby School, who gave me an update on what was happening at the school now it has closed temporarily until further notice. Basically, the whole summer term may well be affected with no inter schools matches being played. However, James is still waiting on an ECB decision on whether there will be any county cricket games forthcoming, as the school usually host a couple of Warwickshire games in August. In the meantime, James and his staff will be maintaining the rest of the school grounds and will take the opportunity to promote as much growth and recovery on all the playing surfaces as they can.

As for cricket, to date it has been a case of some light scarification of the square and outfield, some aeration and overseding with MM50 / MM 60 grass seed mixtures to re populate the sward and encouraging some decent recovery after such a poor autumn and wet winter.

Speaking to several other schools, they are all in a similar position – closed, with a reduced skeleton staffing regime carrying out basic maintenance tasks to keep the school grounds presentable.

I also spoke to Ben Gibson at Sussex CCC who said the club had sent all his grounds team home and are only allowing Ben to come in and do the basics required to maintain the square and outfield.



Karl McDermott, head groundsman at Lord’s, has been keeping us up-to-date, via his Twitter feed. He has been sole working, with living on site enabling him the opportunity to keep on top of things with grass cutting, rolling, feeding and watering.

Bob Stretton who works at the West Warwickshire sports complex says it been a tough winter and has only just managed last week, to complete his first cut of the square and outfield due to the recent wet weather and floods. He now faces a wait to find out if any cricket will indeed be played this season?

I also managed to contact Alastair Symondson, head of media at Cricket World, asking him his thoughts on the current crisis and the affect it may have on cricket?

“At Cricket World, we are well aware of the challenges and issues that Clubs face during a normal cricket season (I have played club cricket or been involved with club cricket for over 50 years),” said Alastair, “however, we are now going into unchartered waters with the COVID-19 Outbreak and the management of club and community facilities, both here in the UK and around the world.”

Alistair like everybody else, is hoping that Cricket matches will resume when safe to do so, hopefully by July / August with perhaps an extension of the season until October to allow clubs to earn some much-needed income. Alistair was also keen mention that this year’s Cricket World Groundcare Awards are very much still on, with clubs able to nominate and put forward a candidate for this award.

There are several award categories and the judging process will be taking into account the quality of the playing surface, general upkeep of the ground, longevity of service, an 'against all odds' and an overall Groundcare Person of the Year. Every nomination for the judging process will receive a special Certificate of Recognition for the Individual and the club/school and the winners will be invited to a special presentation at Lord's Cricket Ground, in London. For More information contact Alastair Symondson or Jane Tomkins - info@cricketworld.com

While on the subject of cricket I also managed to speak to Andy Mackay, pitch and grounds advisor for the ECB, who recently took over from Chris Woods. He said things are quite challenging at the moment, but before the lockdown he manged to visit Lord’s, have a meeting with Chris Woods and call in on a couple of county clubs - before he, like most of us, had to start working from home.



Andy has managed to set up an online conference calling system with many of the county cricket clubs and is currently putting together some ECB Corona Virus Guidelines and advice notifications, that will be sent out to all professional clubs , along with another one to grassroots cricket clubs.

Like all of us, it is just a case of waiting and hoping we can end this virus as quickly as possible and be allowed to get our lives back on track and hopefully may get to see some cricket later on in the summer?
As for some universities, I spoke to both Greg Smith (Nottingham) and Dave O’Driscol (Birmingham) who both said that their universities had closed with only a few students left on campus who could not get home. All sports fixtures had been cancelled and they both commented that their campuses were somewhat erie and a quiet place to work. Keeping on top of the grass cutting is a priority along with some renovation work being carried out on some of the sports pitches.


As for golf the British International Golf Greenkeeping Association (BIGGA) they are doing their best to keep their members updated on the ever developing situation – as are the IOG.


I also spoke to Professor John Moverley, Independent Chairman of the Amenity Forum. John said to me, "These are exceptional and in so many ways unprecedented times. The threat of the coronavirus has changed all our lives and will impact upon all our futures. I know many amenity businesses are struggling with travel restrictions, the loss of labour and cash flow. Also distressing is how this is impacting upon individual lives with many facing the enormous challenge of no income and still bills to pay.

"The Forum is in dialogue with government and key stakeholders on such matters so please keep me informed if you think we might just be able to help in any way. Whilst of course all of us must support the national effort to control this virus, there remain many amenity operations which need to be maintained in these difficult times, seeking to create safe and healthy amenity spaces.

"The Forum has provided guidance on such matters and will continue to do so. Last week the Highways agency helpfully made a statement which has set the rules allowing maintenance of our road network to keep essential supplies and services flowing."

These are testing times ahead for all of us. Please keep safe when working and consider the implications of infecting other people.

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