Raising the game in Wales

The GMA has, for the first time in Wales, delivered its new one-day Level 2 3G playing surfaces training course – Effective maintenance of 3G surfaces - to an avid audience at the University of South Wales Sport Park. (Pictured: Even surfaces with uniform infill levels sustain playing quality characteristics.)

One essential part of any ground operative’s role is to ensure he can demonstrate an appropriate duty of care to all users of a pitch and, to help reinforce this legal requirement as a learning activity, the GMA’s Effective Maintenance of 3G Surfaces course begins with a comprehensive visual on-site inspection, along with discussion, of the playing surface. This is a core practical element of the course and commenting about the pitch at the Sport Park Chris Gray, the course trainer, said: “Considering the pitch has been down for a number of years, the maintenance and upkeep of the surface has continued to be to a good standard, being well-presented throughout.” 

Pictured: Informal testing of ball bounce

In addition to visual assessments, the GMA course also contains an element of routine pitch testing via simplified rebound bounce tests to provide a general indication of infill contamination and the hardness of the playing surface. This also helps to provide a general indication of potential maintenance requirements. The average rebound bounce in this case was in the region of 50 per cent, indicating that playability was just within performance requirements for football and that de-compaction of the surface infill, which is a more specialised activity than routine work, would be probably required very shortly.

Some interesting and pertinent issues were raised by the course delegates, in particular the need to actively manage pitch usage to ensure wear is spread as evenly as possible. This led to discussions on the importance of good channels of communication between grounds staff and facility managers, with the latter needing to have a good understanding of how incorrect usage management will negatively impact on an organisation’s business model for income and on carpet replacement. 

Another important point of discussion surrounded how ‘an hour of use’ relates to maintenance requirements. There are many variables that impact on the maintenance of a 3G surface; type of use, intensity of use, age and weight impact of users, impact of environmental surroundings, the skills of the grounds staff carrying out the work, the type of equipment being used and the type of infill (rubber/organic), to name some. All of these need to be carefully considered by management when planning staffing and resource requirements for pitch maintenance. How many facility managers start with the rule of thumb ratio of one hour of maintenance to 10 hours of use? Few will have given much consideration to factoring in the numerous variables to help make a better informed decision to support the sustainability of their business model. 

Pictured: A well maintained and managed pitch meets user expectations

With this in mind, the GMA is now also looking at developing a different short course more aligned to facility or finance managers to focus on user management and its impact on sustained income and business plans.

This appears to be an area little explored from an applied management perspective. 

“The one-day training course pulled together a diverse range of 
3G information and presented it in a way that attendees felt was delivered in an interesting and informative manner - full of useful information,” was one comment from the day. This encapsulates exactly what the GMA wants to achieve at all its courses: a session that is fi t for purpose and with attendees’ appetite whetted for learning.

Useful articles on the maintenance and type of equipment available for 3G and artificial surfaces routinely appear in the Groundsman. Of particular note was one in the July 2015 edition, ‘Basic maintenance practices for synthetic surfaces’, which reflected on the issues of the different types of pitch usage. Also, in the January 2016 issue, the Product Showcase section identified a wide range of equipment which can be used for maintenance. 

For more information about an GMA Learning course, email learning@thegma.org.uk, or call 01908 312511.