Durham’s Vic Demain was in attendance as the unsung heroes of first-class cricket were treated to a couple of days at the FA’s National Football Centre at St George’s Park in Staffordshire last week.
The 330-acre site was chosen for the first time as the venue for the annual pre-season meeting and conference of the groundsmen and the ECB’s Pitches Group – with the cross-fertilisation of ideas continuing as speakers included Neil Stubley, the head groundsman for the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon.
“St George’s Park was an excellent venue for a very worthwhile couple of days,” reflected Chris Wood, the ECB’s Pitches Consultant.
“It is an important annual event for us, providing us with the chance to keep the county groundsmen informed of any changes in pitch-related rules and regulations, and them with the chance to raise any issues with us.
And Demain reflected on the usefulness of the chance for all the groudsmen to get together ahead of the long county season ahead in 2017.
“It is really useful for the 18 head groundsmen to come together for a couple of days and swap experiences, whether they be cricket related or other items happening on the grounds like concerts for example,” he said.
“We also had presentations from Neil Stubley (Wimbledon) & Alan Ferguson (Wembley Stadium & St. Georges Park) which were extremely interesting and also an insight in to how other sports manage to maintain their own surfaces through a rigorous season.
“There is much we in cricket can learn from these such individuals.”
By Tuesday evening, the groundsmen had scattered around the country back to their counties – already well aware of the forecast of widespread ice, snow and sleet this weekend, with the first pre-season fixtures now approaching rapidly.
Wood concluded: “As with our annual awards ceremony, which we held in Bristol before Christmas, the pre-season meeting is a chance for us to remind our groundsmen how much we appreciate their efforts. We certainly don’t take them for granted.”