The latest in a long line of leading groundsmen committed to DLF & Johnson’s sports seed mixes, Iain is Sports and Landscape Assistant Manager at Surrey University’s Surrey Sports Park in Guildford and is entering his 25th year at the Park, having joined the original facility from school aged 16. He spearheads a close-knit team of nine working in the Sports, Amenity and Horticulture department whose role is to tend the 60-acre site, as well as 70 acres of the university’s main campus, 75 acres of its research park and more than 180 acres of woodland and offsite residences.
The £36 million Surrey Sports Park development, fully funded by the University of Surrey, opened its doors in April yet is already regarded as one of the UK’s premier multi-sport facilities, offering a huge spread of outdoor and indoor provision for its three user groups – the University’s students, elite sports figures and the local community.
Surrey Sports Park has already proved its credentials, triumphantly hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August, while also designated a training camp for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Under the huge investment, the university committed to constructing four new grass pitches – one rugby, one football, two junior football – a second cricket square and a dual-use floodlit 3G artificial grass pitch to add to the seven existing natural grass ones.
Iain is tasked with delivering a sustained quality in pitch provision to the standards demanded by the likes of Harlequins, which named Surrey Sports Park as its new training base when the site officially opened.
Yet the Groundsman’s Groundsman of the Year had to steel himself to the rigours of coping with the persistently poor weather conditions that hampered construction of the new pitches.
“We were forced to pull out twice due to the appalling weather,” he recalls, “first in the summer of 2007 and again in spring 2008. The work was eventually completed in the July, which meant that we were unable to seed at the optimum time.”
Huge tonnages of clay were excavated and stockpiled on site rather than landfilled as pitch foundations and drainage systems were laid down. The pitches were prepared with enriched sand in a raft construction, then a sand carpet laid on top to protect players from the underlying layer of flint that characterises the site.
But Iain’s hard work, perseverance and persuasion paid off again when further improvements to the university rugby pitch were undertaken after drainage problems had continued to hinder play because of the impervious clay base. He persuaded the university to invest in new drainage and allow at least a two-year establishment period for the new surfaces.
“We were given time to develop the new pitches ahead of the work beginning on the rest of Surrey Sports Park,” he says. “As a result, they are far more free-draining, with little risk of flooding. Where waterlogging was an issue, we’d now be unlucky if we have even one or two per cent of games cancelled a year.”
The Women’s Rugby World Cup signalled the first opportunity for the pitches to run the gauntlet of television coverage, but they came through with flying colours.
Itself commanding a huge world viewing audience, the event was the first but will not be last world sporting spectacle that Surrey Sports Park will form a pivotal part of. With the 2012 Games, Iain Main will no doubt soon be preparing himself for more of the media spotlight as the planet’s top athletes come to town.
IOG Groundsman's Groundsman of the year 2010 Sponsor
DLF Trifolium/Johnsons sponsored the IOG Groundsman’s Groundsman of the Year Award for the second year in succession. Visit www.dlf.co.uk to find out more about the DLF Trifolium/Johnsons seed mixes.