The power of the grass pitch: Gainsborough Trinity Foundation
From the bright lights of Wembley to your local town football club, grass pitches make our grassroots game great. There’s nothing quite like stepping out onto a top-quality grass surface on a match day.
Thanks to investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation, Gainsborough Trinity Foundation have powered up the grass pitches at Roses Sports Ground, transforming their home site into a facility the local community can enjoy and be proud of. The ground supports a range of diverse groups and has facilitated the creation of 20 plus new grassroots teams, including disability and women’s & girls’ teams.
Having taken over the ex-Local Authority site, Gainsborough Trinity Foundation were awarded a £41,300 grant in April 2020 to maintain the seven grass pitches at Roses Sports Ground. This six-year tapered grant from the Football Foundation has allowed the Lincolnshire-based charity to begin to carry out the maintenance work their grass pitches needed to improve their quality.
Damon Parkinson, Head of Operations at Gainsborough Trinity Foundation, said: “It was identified in Gainsborough that there was a real lack of quality sports facilities. When the first grass pitch report came through for Roses, all the pitches were ranked as poor or inadequate with weeds, poor grass coverage and significant drainage issues. Since receiving grass pitch maintenance funding, the pitches are now rated as ‘good’ and ‘excellent’, and all this has been achieved within a year. It allowed us to carry out the essential maintenance work and purchase the materials, like fertiliser, we’d otherwise been unable to afford.”
"Since receiving grass pitch maintenance funding, the pitches are now rated as ‘good’ and ‘excellent’, and all this has been achieved within a year."
The Trinity Foundation has also received grants to purchase their own grass pitch maintenance machinery, replace their goalposts and build a new 3G pitch, benefitting from a total of more than £773.7k of Football Foundation funding. This has helped the charity give Roses Sports Ground a new lease of life, creating a high-quality facility for the local people of Gainsborough.
Speaking of Gainsborough Trinity Foundation’s grass pitch maintenance machinery grant, Damon said: “This was absolutely vital because purchasing our own machinery enabled us to do maintenance when it needed doing. Previously we had to book a contractor in for the day and even if the weather wasn’t quite right, the work would go ahead anyway. Now, because we have the machinery, we are much more flexible and can be really specific and bespoke about the work we carry out – we can do the work when conditions are best suited to it and complete maintenance more frequently because it’s far more cost effective, especially given the size of the site.
“That’s been massive for us in improving our pitches. We haven’t had standing water at all since we started our grass pitch maintenance programme, whereas before the pitches would be underwater for three months of the year. We couldn’t have done this level of maintenance work without the machinery grant.”
And it’s not just the grass pitches in Gainsborough that the Football Foundation is looking to improve. We’re on a mission to transform the quality of grass pitches across the country. 87% of the affiliated game is played on a natural grass surface and yet 150,000 matches were postponed last full season because of unplayable pitches. Having good quality grass pitches means less postponements and more opportunities to play so we’ll be working with clubs and facilities to improve grass pitches throughout England, to reach a target of 20,000 'good' quality grass pitches in the next 10 years.
“With our grass pitches now so strong off the back of the funding we’ve received, we can host more games and accommodate more teams than ever before,” Damon told us. “The community club we’re partnered with were down to 5 teams but now are back up to 32 thanks to our grass pitches. Teams are now asking to play on the grass rather than our 3G because they’re of such a high standard which is just incredible.”
To start your grass pitch improvement journey, clubs and organisations that are responsible for maintaining a grass pitch need to complete a pitch inspection using PitchPower – the Football Foundation’s free web app. PitchPower allows clubs to easily and quickly submit accurate data which is less time-intensive and more efficient than in-person inspections. Once an inspection is submitted, Regional Pitch Advisers at the Grounds Management Association (GMA) produce an assessment report with bespoke advice and recommendations to improve the grass pitch quality at a site.
If the pitches aren’t up to scratch, eligible clubs and facilities can then apply for funding from the Football Foundation to support pitch improvements identified through the PitchPower app.
Damon has been using the PitchPower web app for the last year: “Using PitchPower has without a doubt led to the amazing results we’ve seen on our grass pitches this season. For a start, it’s helped me understand when the right time is to put down fertiliser and seed. I am a complete novice and the ease of the process of completing and submitting pitch inspections using the app has really helped me. Because we have been using the app and thanks to the report you receive, we’ve been able to identify what we need to do to improve the quality of the grass. One of the outcomes of all this work through PitchPower is that we’ve been able to apply for and get funding from The Football Foundation to support the areas we need to improve.”
As well as growing their own knowledge through PitchPower, the Trinity Foundation have also been able to upskill and develop upcoming groundskeepers.
“Young people on our Kickstart and NEET education programmes have learnt about grass pitch improvement and why we do each type of maintenance work. They want to come and volunteer at our site because they find it interesting. The funding has allowed us to do this as we’ve been able to show and provide a range of grass pitch maintenance information which has helped develop their skills. Even the soil sampling as part of the PitchPower inspection process - one lad followed me round to find out what I was measuring; why I was measuring it; what did the root depth mean; why was the thatch depth important. That just wouldn’t have happened without the web app or the funding we got to carry out the recommended maintenance works,” Damon explained.
Now, thanks to Gainsborough Trinity Foundation’s improved grass pitches, more people than ever before are benefitting from the facilities and programmes offered at Roses Sports Ground. The quality of their grass pitches means more games and more opportunities for everyone, helping to transform the lives of the local people in Gainsborough.
If you are responsible for maintaining a grass pitch, you too can Power Up Your Grass Pitch with the Football Foundation. Visit our Power Up Your Grass Pitch page here to find out how.