Northumberland FA hosted its first-ever Pitch Improvement Programme event at Close House Golf Club on Thursday 22 February, with a total of 50 delegates attending on behalf of local football clubs, grounds maintenance workers and NFA trade partners.
The event started with an introduction from Mark Woodhall, NFA County Development Manager, who set out the agenda for the day, before Northumberland FA ambassador and former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper set the scene with an introduction of his own.
Delegates then made the short trip out to the football pitch to enjoy some practical demonstrations from the NFA’s trade partners, which included several types of grass-cutting and line-marking exhibitions. Various sets of machinery, including tractors, cutters, line-markers and goals, were all set up at the practical delivery site.
Delegates also had the opportunity to use the machinery first-hand, with some opting to drive tractors and use cutting equipment. The practical sessions were well received by the delegates and gave everyone an opportunity to network and discuss pitch maintenance topics with fellow clubs and trade partners.
Following the practical sessions and lunch, David Snowden from Agronomic Services (above) led a seminar inside, providing delegates with informative tips on how to maintain grass pitches at a high-quality standard.
Newcastle United groundsman, Andrew Tully (above), then presented a seminar titled ‘From Paddy Freemans to Premiership Playing Surfaces’. Andrew gave an insight on what it’s like being a Premier League groundsman and also talked through recent St James’ Park reconstruction work, which included SIS stitching.
The seminars concluded with Steven Blakely (above), head greenkeeper at Close House Golf Club, speaking with delegates about his preparation for the 2017 British Masters. Steven discussed the early mornings and long days during the weeks leading up to the tournament and how the course conditions proved a challenge to the likes of Sergio Garcia and Eddie Pepperell.
Following the seminars, a question and answer session proved helpful for delegates who found it useful to ask the experts about their own pitch-related queries. The conference then concluded with Mark Woodhall (below) launching Pitch Perfect. This is a project provided by Northumberland FA to support grassroots clubs with affordable pitch maintenance solutions across the county.
If your club wants to find out more about the project, please contact Jamie Hanna via firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking after the event, Mark Woodhall said: “We’re delighted with the feedback we’ve received from delegates following our first Pitch Improvement Conference. Feedback has included high praise for the quality of the programmes, (provided by Shiremoor Press), the fantastic venue and the input from trade partners and guest speakers.
“We are very much looking forward to building on the success of this event and ensuring that next year’s conference is equally well received, by delivering an increased range of practical and theory sessions.”
Next year’s Pitch Improvement Conference has already been confirmed to take place on Thursday 21 February 2019 at Close House Golf Club. Further information will be released in due course.