Life in the Lower Leagues: Hard work to maintain quality of playing surface pays offBy Bob Bacon
March 04, 2013
Bob Bacon is the chairman of Binfield FC.
In this week's Life in the Lower Leagues, he tells about how hard work maintaining the quality of the club's pitches pays off in the long term.
On the radio last week, I heard the Director of Football at Crewe Alexandra, Dario Gradi, talking about how his club have managed to keep many talented youngsters, when the lure of greater personal gain could have come from them joining more prestigious clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton in the North West of England.
He highlighted a selection of advantages that Crewe offered, that were all pretty simple and there are lessons that at a local level, we could copy.
He said the quality of coaching didn’t matter unless the surface that the players play on isn’t of sufficient quality where a telling pass can have an impact.
At Binfield, we have two groundsmen who protect our three pitches very well and as volunteers, put in hours of work each week to
ensure that the surface is sound, the grass is cut and marked out appropriately.
I’m sure a lot of what they do is taken for granted but we spend a lot of money each season on the playing surfaces, which pays off each year, given the constant pounding that they receive.
We put the pitches “to bed” after our tournament in May and they are kept that way until August, and we also have requests for “can we just play one game?” Or “can we just have one training session?” During that time, but if we want to provide a good surface, we have to turn them down.
This spell of bad weather has hit us and others, really hard, and it is a constant battle to get the games on and the backlog of games will certainly give the groundsmen further headaches as we get towards the tail end of the season.
Two years ago we extended our car park to prevent annoying our neighbours on the adjacent lanes when people were parking on the lanes and blocking them.
On a Saturday morning, the mayhem starts just after 8am and runs through until noon.
Bearing in mind we have to fund this sort of expenditure ourselves, we need to do it as economically as possible, and we raised sufficient funds to add at least a further 60 car parking spaces.
We looked at tarmacing the surface but that would have cost a small fortune, but where would we be without the bumps and puddles that our car park provides?
The FA came to visit us a couple of seasons back and the gentleman from the FA gazed out across the pitch and said “it must be a weight off your shoulders now that more money hits grassroots football”, to which I asked him where he though grassroots footballs starts, because we certainly don’t get any hand-outs, and raising the money comes from sheer hard work to provide our players with the best (we can afford) of facilities in a safe environment.
As an FA Community club, we are required to provide qualified coaches throughout the age groups, all at our own costs.
We are required to provide qualified first-aiders, all at our own costs and on top of that we need enhanced CRB certificates for all those who are involved with the players, all at our own costs.
It may seem like a drain on resources sometimes, but we plan and budget for things and stick to the budget in order to provide the best that we can – and it’s all a labour of love, but we all love it.