Four Oaks FC Receive Grounds Team Award
Four Oaks Football Club and their volunteer grounds team have been recognised by Staffordshire FA for their outstanding commitment to improving the playing surfaces of the football pitches at their Mill Green Sports Ground, winning the Staffordshire FA ‘Grounds Team of the Year’ Award for Season 2022-23.
Led by Chairman Steve Ward, Four Oaks FC first embraced the Staffordshire FA pitch improvement programme four years ago, and ongoing improvements have been made to the site on an annual basis ever since, overcoming some significant challenges along the way to produce excellent playing surfaces for local grassroots players to enjoy.
Staffordshire FA Pitch Advisor and Regional Pitch Advisor for the GMA, Kevin Duffill, first visited the Four Oaks site in June 2019 and identified the pitches as below standard and in need of improvement and investment. Steve and the club then proceeded to put into place a maintenance programme, fully embracing the recommendations provided by Kevin in his visit report, along with the additional support provide via the Staffordshire FA pitch improvement programme.
Steve has regularly attended Staffordshire FA pitch maintenance workshops to increase his knowledge and networks in this area, accessing the additional advice available from professionals across the industry, as well as networking with other volunteer grounds persons from across Staffordshire who have similar challenges and ambitions to improve their surfaces.
The development of the Grass Pitch Revolution on a national level resulted in Four Oaks embracing the Football Foundation ‘Pitch Power’ platform, with the club’s first Pitch Power report received in November 2020. At that stage, the pitches were assessed as a mixture of poor and basic. The club then took the opportunity to embrace Football Foundation funding to make improvements to the pitches and the site in general, investing in grounds maintenance machinery to allow the club to conduct more maintenance work in-house, in addition to investment into storage containers for the equipment, and new goalposts for the site.
In March 2021, the club successfully applied for Football Foundation Grass Pitch Maintenance Funding to help pay for specialist contracted services at the site to further improve the pitches. The club also identified an issue with pitch drainage in a section of the site which impacted the use of their 11v11 pitch. After seeking advice from the GMA and professional guidance from local companies, the club successful installed drainage to a small section of the site via an additional Football Foundation grant, which has resulted in a significant improvement to allow full use of the area. The pitches were assessed again in November 2021 via the Pitch Power app and were deemed at an ‘Advanced’ level for grassroots football.
The club gained an additional Football Foundation grant in November 2021 to erect fencing and a new entrance gate to help protect the site and remove the issue of people accessing the site and potentially causing damage to the improved pitches.
The club has continued the ongoing development of the site with further grants accessed for additional pitch maintenance machinery to assist the grounds team to maintain the pitches to the best possible standard they can be for grassroots football, complementing the investment received via the Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund grant.
The pitches were once again assessed in November 2022 via the Pitch Power app, with the pitches now being graded as ‘High’ for grassroots football. Not resting on his laurels, Steve has completed the GMA Level 1 course for maintaining football pitches to further enhance his knowledge, with plans afoot to complete the Level 2 course too. The club also have additional plans to further enhance the site and will be working on these over the 2023/24 season.
Huge congratulations to Steve and all at Four Oaks FC for their ongoing hard work and commitment to improving the pitches at Mill Green Sports Ground for the benefit of local grassroots football.