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Groundsman wins top award

5 September 2012

Sky Blues head groundsman John Ledwidge picks up award for work on Ricoh Arena pitch

The Sky Blues' head groundsman was top of the podium at a national awards ceremony for his work on the pristine pitch at the Ricoh Arena during the Olympic Games.

John Ledwidge was presented with the 2012 Young Turf Professional of the Year Award at the Macdonald Savill Court Hotel in Surrey.

The sixth Turf Pro Awards which recognise excellence in turf care management and sportsground upkeep were voted for by a judging panel including Scott MacCallum,  formerly editor of Greenkeeper International and now editor of Turf Pro, and Mike Beardall, former editor of The Groundsman.

John said the pitch had been praised by FIFA and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) during the Olympic Games when 12 matches were played on the Ricoh Arena pitch in eight days.

“This is the first award I have won as head groundsman and it is a reward for my entire team who worked so hard to prepare the pitch between the end of the Coldplay concert and the start of the Olympic Games,” the 26-year-old said.

“It was good that we had so much rain for the first two weeks after Coldplay when the seeds were growing but then when the persistent rain continued for weeks three, four and five it turned into a nightmare. 

“When it is dry you can water it, but when it is wet the grass has everything it needs so the roots don’t go down as far as you would like so we had to use a few mechanical weapons in our armoury to make sure it grew properly.

“This has been the most testing summer of my career because we had seven weeks and four days between Coldplay and the start of one of the biggest sporting events the country has ever seen to make sure the pitch was to the right standard.

“It was a challenge but I thrive on challenges. There was a lot of planning to do to make sure everything was right.

“The biggest aspect is the pressure you put on yourself because I have such high standards for myself and my team. I was determined to create perfection every time two teams walked out there. 

“I have never had my work judged by so many people which is nerve-wracking and I put in 240 hours in two weeks but that was why the pitch looked so good – and I looked like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards!

“FIFA had a representative here permanently along with LOCOG and they were very complimentary – they said you could play golf on the pitch.”

Anthony Mundy, facilities director of the Ricoh Arena, said he was delighted John’s hard work had gained national recognition.

He said: “It was certainly a testing schedule for John and the rest of the grounds staff to ensure the pitch was in first-class condition for the eight matches which were played in the Olympic Football Tournament across 12 days.

“John thoroughly deserves this industry award for his dedication and skill and the high standard of the appearance of the pitch as well as when it was played on was a credit to everyone involved.” 

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