Waterhouses Parish Council and local football clubs have become the latest organisations to benefit from Football Foundation funding, supported by the Staffordshire FA partnerships with equipment suppliers Campey Turf Care and SISIS.
As part of the project the parish council have invested in a New Holland compact tractor, Trimax Striker roller mower, and SISIS Quadraplay, which will support the parish council with their objective of improving football pitches for the local community.
The parish council has taken advantage of funding from the Football Foundation as part of the Staffordshire FA grass pitch improvement strategy, which contributed 75% of the project costs, and were awarded the remaining 25% of funds as a grant from Staffordshire Moorland District Council as part of its Sports Village Programme.
Waterhouses sports field is equivalent to three full-sized football pitches, and hosts Waterhouses FC amongst other senior and junior teams, in addition to a grass area for other parish activities.
According to Waterhouses Parish Council Clerk Chris Hinton, the benefits will be two-fold with the trio of machines in place. First, he believes regular specified maintenance will increase the quality of the pitches, whilst doing the work themselves will save money on contracting costs.
"We are very genuine in our gratitude to the funders and to the Staffordshire FA who glued everything together. We are very keen to embrace the advice which is available to us via the Staffordshire FA pitch improvement programme, their local pitch advisors, and the companies who support the programme,” Chris begins. "I think we've received great advice which we've followed, and I'm really pleased for everybody that they are going to have much better facilities.
"In years gone by, the senior pitch was one of the best in the area. When it was first installed, it was funded by the local quarry, and they put in very good drainage, which made a massive difference. Over the years since then, the pitches haven't received any real treatment, apart from basic mowing and rolling and a little annual dressing and seeding etc.
"The programme we have in place now started in the summer of 2019, when I became aware of the pitch improvement scheme and capital grants to help buy the equipment you need to tie it all together.
"When the grant became a reality, we were required to get quotations, and Campey Turf Care were one of the first people we turned to because of their expertise in the field. After going through the process, we wanted to make sure the equipment we got was fit for purpose, and with their advice, we fulfilled that brief.
"Before, the maintenance was on a contract with a local sub-contractor who did a good job, but it would be done at times when weather permitted and not necessarily when we asked for it or be exactly what we needed.
"Now we can mow the pitch more frequently, to a more specific level depending on the weather and the needs, and when appropriate, we can put the Quadraplay on and slit, scarify or brush. It's going to make a massive difference to the surfaces, and we'll save money because we'll either use our local lengthsman or volunteers."
With maintenance under their own control, the target is now to restore the ground's reputation, which used to be renowned for its quality. Improvement works commenced in the 2020/21 pre-season with deep aeration carried out in the form of shockwaving to relieve compaction, and a series of further recommendations via the Staffordshire FA grass pitch improvement programme planned for the spring, will see a further improvement in quality from the start of next season and beyond.
Gareth Thomas, Staffordshire FA, added: “We’re delighted that Waterhouses Parish Council have embraced the support available to them, via our grass pitch improvement programme and the funding opportunity from the Football Foundation. In doing so they will significantly improve their grass pitches for the local football teams and community in general.
“Since engaging with the programme, Chris and his colleagues at the Parish Council have taken on board all the advice and guidance provided to them by our two pitch advisors, Andy Jackson at Stoke City FC, and Kevin Duffill at the Grounds Management Association. Having embraced the detailed reports received from our pitch advisors, Chris and his colleague David Stone have also attended Staffordshire FA workshops to enhance their knowledge around maintaining natural turf surfaces.
“In addition to the 75% funding the Parish Council received from the Football Foundation, they also worked hard to secure the remaining 25% from the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, and we are very grateful to both organisations for their considerable support, which will have a hugely beneficial impact on the pitches and the local football teams who play on them for many years to come.
“The Parish Council and ourselves are also very grateful to our partners at Campey Turf Care and SISIS who have provided excellent advice and guidance throughout the process, and they are the latest organisation in Staffordshire to access high quality equipment from Campey Turf Care. Campey’s ongoing support for our programme is ensuring that we can meet our objectives of improving as many natural turf pitches as possible across Staffordshire.
“Waterhouses are a great example of what can be achieved by grassroots organisations who embrace the support which is available to them, and we look forward to supporting more grassroots clubs and organisations across Staffordshire with similar projects.”
For further information on the Staffordshire FA grass pitch improvement strategy and how your club can benefit from the programme and funding, please visit: https://www.staffordshirefa.com/leagues-and-clubs/grass-pitch-improvement or email firstname.lastname@example.org