AccessibilityTottenham Hotspur Stadium

#Club #NewStadium #Awards

Our Grounds Team named Premier League’s Grounds Team of the Season for 2021/22

Mon 16 May 2022, 09:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Congratulations to our Grounds Team who have won the prestigious Premier League Grounds Team of the Season award for 2021/22.

Pictured above being presented the trophy by legendary former skipper and Club Ambassador, Ledley King, is our Grounds Team - from left - Darren Baldwin, Tony Sayers, Ollie Deeming, Ayden King, Jake Messenger, Ledley, Wayne Billing, Gary Lee and David Cox.

Not only have Darren (Head of Playing Surfaces and Estates) and Wayne (Stadium Grounds Manager) and their staff provided pristine playing surfaces for what will be 26 first team matches at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this season, 19 in the Premier League, they’ve also managed the pitch when our unique venue transformed for NFL matches in October, and the Anthony Joshua-Oleksandr Usyk World Heavyweight boxing clash in September.

Our world-class arena also hosted rugby for the first time in March - Saracens’ The Showdown 2 against Bristol Bears - and is set to make more history this summer, first with rugby league’s Challenge Cup Final on 28 May and then our first concerts, Guns N’ Roses and Lady Gaga in July.

The Grounds Team award is therefore testament not only to their work around the clock to keep the playing surface immaculate, but also how the team has adapted and used pioneering methods on our ‘hybrid carpet’ pitch.

“This a very prestigious award within our industry and it really means a lot to everyone involved,” said Darren. “Why? It’s been a long time coming, we last won in 2007, and to win with this new technology, the first ‘hybrid carpet’ pitch, is phenomenal.

“We’ve seen pioneering work here. It’s a real game-changer, and I’m sure other venues will soon follow our model. The work that goes into it shouldn’t be underestimated. For example, our pitch is grown in a turf nursery near Lincoln, but we play a big part in the management of that surface, even while it’s there. I was there earlier this week, and we’ll have our guys visit every week. That is the level of dedication we’ve put in to be where we are today.

“This award is testament to Wayne Billing, our Stadium Grounds Manager, who is hands on day-to-day at the stadium, and his team, for all the hard work they’ve put in. It’s been a long, hard road, and we’re continuing to learn, but we’ve embraced the technology and to get to where we are today means everything.”

Sustainability is so important for us here at Spurs - we’ve topped the Premier League’s sustainability table for three-successive years - and Darren was keen to explain how the Grounds Staff continue to deliver this both at the stadium and Hotspur Way, our training centre in Enfield.

“The pitch at the stadium is re-laid every year,” he told us. “This year, we’ll take the surface off again, and we’ll recycle. We take the sand out and recycle the plastic. That sustainability is very important to us as a Club, both at the stadium and the training centre.

“For example, when we renovate pitches at Hotspur Way, we lose the grass, that goes off for composting, and we re-use all the sand in landscaping projects, environmentally-friendly practices that are a massive part of what we do. If we do it at Spurs, we do it properly, we lead on sustainability and I’m very proud of the Club and my team for making us as green as we possibly can be.”

Our ‘hybrid carpet’ pitch

Darren was happy to explain the technical side of the construction and maintaining of the playing surface at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“As long ago as 2014 we were looking at what the stadium design was going to be, the sliding pitch and how we overcome the challenges that come with it. The pitch at White Hart Lane, I’m sure fans will remember, had a camber, an old-style drainage system. However, the pitch at the new stadium had to be completely flat to allow us to slide it under the South Stand.

“The pitch itself… people will hear the word ‘hybrid’ and a hybrid pitch is semi-artificial. Most hybrid pitches have plastic strands stitched eight inches deep and that forms a solid base to grow grass into. At the new stadium, we needed to find a new type of pitch, because of our ambition to stage events through the summer, so we don’t get the eight-week break you’d see in a conventional football stadium.

“We needed to look at a ‘lay, play, recycle’ option. That’s when we came up with our ‘hybrid carpet’. We have a backing of 40-50mm below the height of the plastic strands, allowing us to grow it off-site at a turf farm in Lincoln, harvest it, roll it up 40mm thick and then re-lay the turf out in the stadium. You can lay it out and play on it the next day.

“We’ve had challenges. Fans will remember when we first moved in, the pitch was quite slippery. I remember the first Test event, our Under-18s against Southampton, and for all the testing, the reality is when you play on the pitch and after 15 minutes, I was slightly nervous!

“However, we believed in this system. It was almost ‘mark one’. We were pioneers. We worked very hard with all our partners to ensure we had a system that was fit for Premier League football. Not only that, to have the confidence to play rugby, host other events - we had no issues after the Saracens game, for example.

“People asked me, ‘what if it poured with rain during the rugby?’, but the modern construction of a playing surface brings with it the ability to be able to suck water out of the surface. It is the most hi-tech playing surface that there is, and we’ve embraced the technology to get there.

“Also, we’ve developed over the last four years how we can control the playing surface when it’s ‘parked’. For example, when we had the NFL back at the stadium in October, the pitch was parked under the South Stand for two weeks. That’s challenging as well, but we’ve worked with our partners on lighting, irrigation, how we mow the pitch and Wayne and the team have worked wonders to maintain it.

“I’m sure some people may think we slide it under the South Stand and leave it for two weeks, but we have to control the environment the playing surface is in, so we don’t want to enhance its growth, and we don’t want to deteriorate its growth. We want to keep it alive, and we nurse it every hour, from 5am to 8pm, taking regular checks, like soil temperature.

“We also had the boxing, AJ against Usyk in late September. So, it was away for seven days, came back out for a week, then we parked it for two weeks, and it came out absolutely fantastic. I can’t give enough credit to the team at the stadium for their dedication and hard work throughout the year, but particularly throughout that period. That’s why this award means so much.”