With the United Kingdom joining the European Union in 1992, the importance of European wide standards became more evident, particularly as these standards become incorporated within the member states. The co-ordinating body for European standards is the Committee for European Standardisation (CEN) and for the UK to influence these European standards it is important to have data, ideally objective and meaningful data because ‘in the absence of any other data, existing national standards take precedence’.
Thus without data from the UK for example, data from Germany or France could be used alone. (Garlick, R., (1994) ‘Getting UK golf up to standard’, Horticulture Week, March 17, 19-22)
Throughout the 1990's the STRI published the progress and results of a number of research projects on standards, playing quality and test methods. The areas covered spanned the major sports played and included bowls, cricket, football, golf, hockey, rugby and tennis. (There has actually been a wide range of reports that have appeared in the annual publication, The Journal of the Sports Turf Research Institute dating from 1985 which should be of interest to the reader.)
This wealth of data has been used, along with data from industry experts, sports clubs / associations and local authorities to produce the present Performance Quality Standards.
As this data is further analysed and as the turf industry gains further experience in the use of Performance Quality Standards and the data bank of information expands, then these standards will need to be further reviewed to reflect any necessary improvements needed to maintain them as fit for purpose.
Some of the earlier confusion over the introduction and use of Performance Quality Standards was that providers and maintainers often undertook a well thought out general maintenance plan, based on the estimated number of times certain tasks would be needed, but did not allow for at least two essential factors.
Firstly, the necessary adjustments to the maintenance plan to take into account the variation of soil type, changing surface vegetation, weather conditions and actual usage of a facility.
Secondly, the necessary education and training needs of the maintainers of the facilities to ensure adequate knowledge was available to produce the required level of quality.
It is important to remember that "performance standards were not developed for grounds maintenance but as a means of determining objectives and quality levels to which facilities must be managed. This is why standardisation of maintenance practice and methods of work is often uneconomic." (Dury, PLK, (1995), 'Performance Standards: The Way Forward?', The Groundsman, September, 35-37)
To address this statement and the two previous factors, a more informed and flexible approach needs to be taken.
This can be achieved by ensuring guideline maintenance manuals are available to assist providers in achieving the desired level of quality and by ensuring staff are appropriately educated and trained to be able to effectively implement the necessary procedures.
In 1996 the head of Information and Research Services for the English Sports Council wrote a paper titled ‘European performance standards for sports surfaces and their implications for grounds maintenance’, which identified an important relationship between performance and maintenance that still needs to be adequately addressed today. (Dye, A., (1996), 'European performance standards for sports surfaces and their implications for grounds maintenance', A Hawksmere Seminar at Chelsea FC, 15 April,)
He stated that, “It would seem opportune to promote the need to more firmly link performance with maintenance at this stage before standards are imposed without definitive guidance on how these will be maintained.”
The article continued by identifying an essential practical aspect for Performance Quality Standards that, again, has still not been fully addressed, “ There is also a need in the intervening period to establish definitive simplified field tests as opposed to complex laboratory tests which will assist in this process.”
In 1997 the ECB distributed to local authorities a document which brought together, in the form of a specification, the relevant Performance Quality Standards for cricket pitches, as well as maintenance guidelines for local authorities. This was possibly the first time that such a document had been produced by a Governing Body of Sport. (Anon, (1997), 'Cricket Pitch Maintenance. Guideline Specification for Local Authorities', ECB.)
Some concerns about making sports facilities too clinical and scientific have been justifiably raised. The ability to provide an element of flexibility to confer some form of home advantage to a team may be desired, whilst varying the degrees of playing performance will allow some element of the unknown, at least when players first commence a match. This can help to retain the excitement and challenge that propels sportsmen and women to greater achievements, as well as allowing managers to respond to local conditions.
One author identifies several of the developments that have taken place in the turfgrass industry and describes some of the perceived problems that a too scientific approach could take. For example, he states that "In lawn tennis the scientific construction of playing surfaces has progressed even further than in cricket. The result, according to many fans of the sport, has been a dulling of the spectacle, a fall in the entertainment value of the game". (Harvey, G. (2001), 'The forgiveness of nature. The story of grass', Jonathan Cape)
These are serious issues that have to be addressed to ensure the right surfaces are provided for all concerned, whether they are the user, spectator, governing body, maintainer, provider or sponsor.