This year’s Learning LIVE education programme at SALTEX offered something for everyone involved in groundscare across numerous sports, in particular football, rugby, cricket, tennis, bowls and golf. And if the presence of some of Europe’s leading practitioners – groundsmen and industry experts – wasn’t enough, for the first time the GMA successfully added a number of media/sports personalities to the mix.
Complementing Mark Saggers, journalist and talkSPORT presenter, plus BBC presenter (The Football League Show) Mark Clemmit, who each hosted a semianr theatre, included among the 100 plus high-profile speakers were former professional sportsmen Darren Gough (England cricket) and Barrie McDermott (Leeds Rhinos, Rugby League).
Both recently appointed ambassadors for their respective sports and both now sports media presenters, Darren and Barrie highlighted their appreciation for groundsmanship with Darren, in particular, reflecting how his playing career has now seen him come “full circle” back to village cricket where, he pointed out, it is clear that volunteer groundsmanship plays an indispensable role.
The Learning LIVE schedule also imparted exclusive insights into the latest groundscare trends, opinions and techniques and technologies – for example, in a well-attended session, Tottenham Hotspur’s Darren Baldwin outlined the amazing designs and thinking behind the North London club’s new stadium and its innovative ‘two-pitch’ design that will accommodate both soccer and American football.
The programme also enabled delegates to be brought up to date on a host of industry-wide issues. These included the health fears being raised over 3G rubber crumb infill, and issues surrounding weed, pest and disease control – including a most timely panel debate discussing the withdrawl of carbendazim.
Interestingly, too, the sessions on stress management undoubtedly planted some food for thought among attendees.
In addition, the ‘quick-fire’ presentations on hybrid turf – presented by four exponents of the technology – revealed some interesting insights into carpet design and pitch construction techniques for this ever-popular playing surface.
The list of presenters represented an industry ‘Who’s Who’, with head groundsmen from venues such as Arsenal FC, Liverpool FC, Durham CCC, West Ham Utd FC, Sussex CCC, Glasgow Rangers FC, Watford FC joining Columbus Crew SC from the US Major League Soccer.
These were joined by key personnel from world-class sporting venues including Wimbledon (All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club), PGA Centenary Course – Gleneagles, Wembley Stadium, Stade de France, Parc des Princes, Twickenham Stadium and BT Murrayfield.
In addition, representatives from major national governing bodies of sport including The FA, Sport Scotland, the SFA, Scottish Rugby, ECB, RFU, RFL and the Racecourse Association also revealed the latest sports facility plans and funding developments in their respective sports.
At the end of two days, and after 53 presentations and panel debates, the GMA clearly pulled out all the stops this year to help ensure delegates could learn a little bit more about a wide range of issues in the most comprehensive SALTEX learning programme ever.