Insight into how St. George's Park is kept looking stunning all year round.

Monday 11 Mar 2024
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Spanning across 330 acres, and set in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside, St. George’s Park is a unique location in many ways.

If it’s not the sight of the site’s multiple pristine football pitches that leave you in awe, it’s the colour and variety of the many flowers, plants and shrubs which complement the pitches to provide the experience that makes St. George’s Park such a unique venue.

It’s the responsibility of St. George’s Park’s Assistant Head of Estates, Matt Arnold and his team, to design, plant and maintain the vast array of flowers, trees and much more, to maintain the stunning aesthetic across the site. Originally part of the team at St. George’s Park when it opened in 2013 before departing in 2017, Matt returned to The FA in 2020 to take up his current role.

"During the four years I was away, there became more of an emphasis on the estates side of things, and that’s how this role evolved," explains Matt.

“When you come to St. George’s Park, you don’t see the first pitch until you’re a mile down the road, so there’s a big impact that the site has on a person’s first impression. What we do, people see before they see anything else.”

Matt acts as Assistant Head of Estates to St. George’s Park’s Head of Grounds and Estates, Andy Gray. Andy and Matt enjoy a close working relationship which, as Matt explained, benefited from a mutual concept of how the estates should look and feel.

“I’ve got full backing from Andy and we’re very much on the same wavelength,” said Matt. “In one of my first chats with Andy, we took a walk around the site as we were all just coming out of COVID, it was soon obvious his vision and my vision are very similar.”

In just over four years, Matt and his team have been able to develop the estates of St. George’s Park to what they are today.

“I oversee the team and we have Liam, John and Morgan as estate grounds people, and Matt who is the hotel gardener, but we all form one team and will be all out doing the day-to-day work. 

“A typical day will see us get together at about 8am, both the estates team and the grounds team that look after the pitches. There’s a morning briefing and we’ll usually be out by 8.30am. I’d like to believe that if you speak to any of my guys, they’d agree that no two days are the same. Because the site is so big, there is so much ground to cover and a lot of work to be done. I like to ensure there’s variation, especially during the months when the weather isn’t great. I try to break the day up with different tasks and where possible I’ll be out there working with them.”

The product of Matt and his team’s ongoing work is stunning, maintaining its aesthetic even with the changing of the seasons. However, Matt’s dedication extends beyond the site at St. George’s Park and into the local community. At the back end of 2023, Matt and his team worked with a local primary school and using the knowledge and experience of the team created a pathway and seated bird hide in a nature area for all the children to enjoy.

“Schools have got a very limited budget when it comes to outdoor activities, and in this case, we have the skills and it took us a day out of our year,” explains Matt. “All of my team really enjoyed doing it. To be able to produce something the kids could use, it was great. It was a terrific enrichment activity and brilliant to give something back to the community. We hope to go back to the school in April to do some wildflower sowing and it would be fantastic to have the kids come and visit us at St. George’s Park one day.”

By FA Staff