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Pitch Construction for Sandal Rugby Club.

The grounds team at Whitgift School in south Croydon has won the Souters Sports Independent School/University Sports Ground Team of the Year Award at the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) Industry Awards.

In a prestigious ceremony at the Birmingham Metropole hotel hosted by talkSPORT Radio presenter Mark Saggers, the award was presented to the team by Souters Sports’ managing director Stewart Aird, in front of an audience of more than 640 of the UK’s and Europe’s leading groundscare experts, as well as dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators.

The school’s 16-strong groundscare team (nine groundsmen plus a four-strong gardens team and three estates staff) have 45 acres in their charge – incorporating playing surfaces for rugby, football, cricket, tennis, hockey, softball and golf, as well as gardens, livestock, lakes, traffic thoroughfares and car parks. Modern pentathlon and cross country events are also held at the school.

The sports pitches are used all year round and, as part of the annual improvement programme, the team has in recent times centred on the health of the grass/soil combined with changes to the topdressings, the fertiliser regime and seed selection – all with the aim of presenting ever-improved playing surfaces.

Whitgift School was shortlisted for the award with the University of Leeds and St Peter’s School, York.

Organised by the IOG - the leading membership organisation for everyone involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities – the prestigious UK-wide IOG annual awards embrace categories of entry covering sport, young people and the environment.

The awards are judged by an independent panel on criteria that include effective use of resources, budgetary control, presentation and housekeeping standards, as well as environmental considerations.

Commenting on the high standard of award winners, IOG chief executive Geoff Webb, says: “With a record number of entries, this year’s awards continue to demonstrate the high standards of groundsmanship throughout the UK, at both voluntary and professional level.

“Winning an award against such stiff competition is testament to the skill, dedication and passion of the grounds teams and individuals whose vital contribution to the high quality of the playing surfaces goes largely unnoticed.”