On the 14th May, The FA confirmed the country and regional winners of this years FA Groundsmen of the Year Awards, which for the first time will be sponsored by FA Partner Carlsberg.
After nominations had been received by County FA's across the country, and judging taken place by industry experts - including judges from the Institute of Groundsmanship - the regional winners will now all go forward for to the national awards ceremony, which will for the second time be held at the industry's Sports and Leisure Technology Exhibition (SALTEX) at Windsor Racecourse on 3 September.
The Awards were the brainchild of FA Leagues Development Manager Mike Appleby and The FA Pitches and Facilities committee in 2001, who decided that the 'unsung heroes' of the grassroots should have an Award of their own, as their Premier and Football league peers do.
On the conception of the Awards, Mike Appleby said: "Quality pitches are essential for the development of the game at every level; poor playing facilities can seriously hamper this development and continued participation.
"If the introduction of these Awards help motivate and recognise these 'unsung heroes', and raise standards, it will have all been worthwhile. You only had to look at the faces of last years winners to see what this recognition meant."
Last years winners came from across the country, and the 2002 Local Authority winner - States of Jersey - will be looking to defend their title. The categories for the Awards are:
· Nationwide Conference Award
· UniBond League Award
· Dr Martens League Award
· Ryman League Award
· National League System (Level 2) Award - overall winner of above 3 Feeder Leagues
· National League System (Level 3) Award - for clubs that play on enclosed grounds
· Local Authority Award
The latter category was included to reward those local authorities who provide that 'little bit extra' when it comes to maintaining facilities, and the service they provide to their users.
With 97% of all affiliated football played outside of the Football League, grassroots groundstaff play a huge role in ensuring pitches are in their best possible condition week in, week out around the country.
Speaking about the criteria for judging, the Institute of Groundsmanship's Alex Millar said:
"We travelled around the country, looking at the pitches, equipment, their overall knowledge and the level of financial support they receive. We discovered that we were dealing with a wide range of people, from those who are top experts in this field, to those doing their very best on an extremely limited budget and little machinery, but still commit countless hours voluntarily to providing the best quality surfaces."
The FA is committed - in partnership with The Football Foundation - to improving football facilities in this country, and already £60million of facility projects have been developed through this partnership. Improving facilities is the key to the future of football and considerable work is underway to address the state of current pitches and changing facilities.
In January 2003, The Football Foundation launched the unique REFF report (Register of English Football Facilities - www.reff.org.uk) assessing and mapping over 90% of pitches and changing rooms, highlighting that drainage problems are a major cause of concern, whilst 38% of pitches have no changing rooms.
Using the findings of REFF, Local Facility strategies will be developed in each County as part of a national FA Facility Development Strategy, as The FA aims to address the concerns of the players of today, and leave a legacy for tomorrow in the development of facilities in a prioritised and impactful way.
The Groundsman of the Year Awards will this year be sponsored by FA Partner Carlsberg, and Gareth Roberts, Sponsorship Manager for Carlsberg said:
"The FA deal is an important part of the jigsaw as we develop our commercial plans for the Carlsberg brand.Football has been a key driver of Carlsberg's growth in the UK lager market and sales have virtually doubled since Euro '96.
"Carlsberg is the fastest growing standard lager and it is major deals like this, along with our support of The FA Trophy, FA Vase, and now, The FA Groundsman of the Year Awards that will sustain this momentum, and we are delighted to support such innovative Awards."
Local Authority Category County Awards - Regional Winners
Quinton Cole - Tendring District Council (Essex FA) - London & South East Region
Kevin Yates - Lichfield District Council (Birmingham FA) - North West & West Midlands Region David Mansfield - Gateshead Council (Durham FA) - North Region
Steve Landick - States of Jersey (Jersey FA) - South Region
John Gray - Needingworth Parish Council (Hunts FA) - East Mids & East Anglia Region
Level 3 and below Category County Awards - Regional Winners
Andrew Snell, White Notley FC (Essex FA) - London & South East
Derek Trafford, Stone Dominoes FC (Staffs FA) - North West & West Mids
Peter Smith, Watton United FC (Norfolk FA) - East Mids and East Anglia
David Baker, Penryn Athletic FC (Cornwall FA) - South
Tommy Porter, Durham City FC (Durham FA) - North
These five regional Local Authority and Club Award winners, all go forward for the national Awards to be announced on September 3rd.
The following Groundsmen from the Nationwide Conference, and three Feeder Leagues who have been nominated for the National Awards will also join these Regional Winners at Windsor Racecourse on September 3rd:
Rod Tippard, Yeovil Town
Barry Headley, Southport
Ian Manhood & George Tucker, Dagenham & Redbridge
Ryman Isthmian League
Peter Ash, Aylesbury United
Ted Scraggs, Bishops Stortford
Steve Barker, Hitchin Town
Dr Martens Southern League
Peter Allen - Moor Green
Robbie Britcher - Eastbourne Borough
Charles Parks - Rocester
UniBond Northern Premier League
Jonathan Wood - Gainsborough Trinity
Mick Collins - Matlock Town
Alf Padena - Radcliffe Borough