60 Seconds with Richard Eastham

The newly appointed GMA Pitch Advisory Service key account manager for rugby league brings exceptional grounds management experience to the role. He says he’s excited about passing on his knowledge to volunteer groundspeople within the sport

How long have you been in the industry?

"About 26 years so far! I started, aged 17, as a trainee groundsperson at Chorley FC. I also worked at Preston North End FC to shadow Peter Callion, the head groundsperson, and went back to Chorley FC as a part-time head groundsperson to help manage the extra pitch load, as rugby league club Chorley Lynx played there during the summer.

Although pitch preparation was the same for both football and rugby league, we only had a two-week period to do a light verti-drain, sand and overseed renovation in between the sports’ seasons. When Peter retired, I became head groundsperson at Preston North End for the next three years, aged 23.

After that, I worked for Liverpool FC – at Melwood training ground, the Kirkby-based academy – and was in charge of the pitch at Anfield Stadium for a couple of years. My next move was to Manchester City FC, and during my six years there, I was responsible for a team of six, which looked after seven academy pitches at the club."

What’s your new role remit at the GMA?

"This role offers me a great opportunity to empower volunteers at communitylevel rugby league clubs with the knowledge and technical know-how to help them better understand what pitch management jobs they need to do, and why, to help improve playing surfaces within the sport, and guide them through the GMA’s Pitch Grading standards.

I’ll also be offering advice on available funding opportunities to help improve their skills and technical knowledge, and obtain the equipment and materials needed to improve and maintain quality surfaces."

What excites you about the role?

"Apart from being a big rugby league fan (a Wigan supporter), this job fits with something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed mentoring team members. I think I’m a good listener and have a knack of being able to explain how to do a task – and why you need to do it – in a way that people understand. For example, during my time at Manchester City, I helped five team members achieve job promotion.

Throughout my working life, my job has always been to grow pitches and grow people – and this role will allow me to continue to do that."

RLFC clubs can contact Richard on reastham@ thegma.org.uk for help and advice