AFC Lewisham struggled to find grass pitches to meet increasing fixture demands until it secured a site lease and gained PAS support to raise playing standards at its new grounds.
When AFC Lewisham was searching for a place to call home, club secretary Josephine Mayendesa suggested the 2.5ha disused Gresham Sports Ground, which had not been played on for the previous five years. The club, established in 2012, cut an informal agreement in late 2019 with the maintenance provider to use the ground ad hoc, before securing a long-term site lease from Dynamo Developments in October 2020. Prior to this agreement, maintenance was restricted to occasional grass cutting only and was procured for development, which was denied, owing to the site being listed as Metropolitan Open Land.
Pitch Improvement Support
A Pitch Improvement Programme (PIP) assessment was carried out in August 2020 and set out a road map offering short-, medium- and long-term recommendations to match the club’s ambitions for improving the four pitches and wider site for community use.
Following on from the PIP report, the club secured Football Foundation funding to support the purchase of a 23Hp Kubota compact tractor, which allowed the cutting of the pitches and other tasks to be performed by club volunteers.
The pitches are now cut at a frequency and height that improves the quality of cover and the health of the sward. The additional slitter attachment also allows aeration operations, which has greatly improved the pitch quality.
The club also enrolled in the Football Foundation’s tapered Enhanced Grass Pitch Maintenance fund, which supports renovation operations over the next 10 years.
Since GMA assistance, the pitches’ carrying capacity has increased to sustain the club’s home fixtures and is also used by local school Trinity Lewisham for PE lessons.
The land lease has been secured for 30 years. Through groundscare knowledge gained through PIP and GMA online training courses, Josephine has developed a greater understanding of recording the maintenance, condition and use of the pitches. She has also developed a sustainable model to allow for wider community use, satellite pitch hire and continual use by the school.
“As a grassroots club, we could not afford to hire a specialist to help us with pitch maintenance planning, and we are grateful for the GMA’s ongoing commitment to help our local community to improve the pitches. We also get plenty of useful information from the Football Foundation’s Groundskeeping Community [Hive].
“It’s the awareness of timing and best practice that has allowed the pitch transformation. Understanding when conditions are – and are not – suitable to perform operations has been essential to help us develop and improve our playing surfaces for the community.”
For more information on the Pitch Advisory Service, visit: thegma.org. uk/pitch-advisory-service
For access to the Football Foundation’s HIVE community, visit: footballfoundation.hivelearning.com