I, along with some invited turf professionals and a large contingent of RFU staff, were cordially invited to Keith Kent’s leaving do, held pitch side last Wednesday. Keith officially left his post of head groundsman at Twickenham yesterday, 30th June 2019, some sixteen plus years since he took up the job on the 30th September 2002.
TurfPro editor Laurence Gale with Keith Kent at Twickenham last week
There is no doubt that he will surely be missed. He has over those years, along with his dedicated assistants Ian and Andy, been instrumental in developing and improving the quality of the playing surface at Twickenham.
In 2002 a visit up to Sunderland FC enabled him see the revolutionary SGL grow lighting system working. That was so impressive, Keith soon had his own set of lighting rigs installed at Twickenham. This was soon followed by a pitch upgrade to fibre sand and then in 2012 the decision was made to install the now popular Desso Grassmaster system - now the main pitch choice for many national stadiums.
However for most of us, Keith is well known for his personality and endearing devotion to grassroots rugby clubs. For a number of years now Keith, working with Ted Mitchel, the RFU’s facility manager, has introduced and implemented the successful the RFU’s Groundsman Connected programme.
Rugby Groundsmen Connected (RGC) is the RFU’s easy access, two-way communication network between the RFU and rugby union groundsmen. It is the main communication channel for the RFU to provide information and advice to groundsmen and includes special offers and exclusive benefits for members. Everything the RFU does related to pitch maintenance will now come under the banner of Rugby Groundsmen Connected. Groundsmen Connected is for anybody that has any involvement in the upkeep of rugby pitches - from complete novice to Premiership groundsmen.
Keith and his team annually visit well over 70 rugby clubs and happily give free advice and help to any club who registers with the scheme by sending an email to email@example.com.
The highlight of the afternoon celebration was the official speeches and the presentation of some wonderful memorable gifts to thank him for his commitment and dedication during his 16 years. The RFU gave him a signed England shirt while, British Airways (RFU Sponsor) presented Keith and his partner with two tickets to fly to New York to see his favourite band the Rolling Stones.
Keith was overwhelmed, but as usual soon found some composure to thank everybody for turning up and making his final week at Twickenham a special moment.
As a further tribute to Keith’s work, TurfPro will be featuring an in depth interview with him in a forthcoming issue.