The IOG has announced its new Grounds4Sport programme with an initial backing of £100,000 over the next three years to improve the quality and promote the benefits of natural turf sports surfaces.
“The programme will transform local community facilities by engaging a new generation of volunteers and career grounds people, and by providing opportunities for everyone who wants to grow their skills and confidence as well as provide improved sports turf pitches,” says IOG chief executive Geoff Webb.
“We aim to reverse the decline in natural turf sports provision by increasing pitch playing capacity, and creating safer and consistently better playing surfaces for communities throughout the UK,” he says.
The programme will also highlight the health and community benefits of sport, he adds.
Grounds4Sport will not only aim to develop the IOG’s National Framework for Natural Turf – which will match an innovative Pitch Grading System with appropriate educational standards for those who maintain playing surfaces, from grassroots to elite professional level - but it will also set out to re-invigorate a passion for turf by offering integrated learning platforms using online options as well as practical help.
Building on the lessons learned from the ongoing IOG-led Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme*, which has found widespread pitch compaction problems married with a lack of knowledge and training in pitch maintenance, Grounds4Sport is essentially “a movement and force for good natural turf practice”, says Geoff.
“We recognise that resources are limited, but with a little direction, pride and passion, Grounds4Sport will show how ‘grass can definitely do more’.”
Geoff adds: “The new programme is all about changing the mindset and approach to maintaining natural turf surfaces by creating greater awareness and understanding of natural turf, and by developing improved maintenance skills.”
“While £100,000 is a significant investment for an organisation the size of the IOG, I recognise that this in itself will not be enough to make a big enough impact nationwide,” Geoff says. “So, the IOG is actively seeking partnerships with other agencies, authorities and charities, as well as individual investors, to expand the programme.”
*The Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme is a joint initiative between the IOG, the England and Wales Cricket Board, The Football Association and the Football Foundation to significantly improve the quality of grassroots natural turf pitches.