University Groundsman Wins Football Association Accolade

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University of Worcester Groundsman, Nigel Portman, has said he is ‘amazed and delighted’ after being named Groundsman of the Year by the Worcestershire Football Association.

Nigel was nominated by colleagues at the University, before members of the county FA’s judging panel voted him the overall winner. He will now go forward to be considered for the national Groundsman of the Year award.

Now in his sixth year at the University, Nigel is responsible for tending to the pitches at Battenhall Playing Fields and the St John’s Campus, as he explains: “During the football season, we check all the pitches at Battenhall after they have been played on.

“Any maintenance such as remarking, cutting, rolling, spiking or repairing divots is completed before the next weekend’s games. I am also responsible for maintaining the cricket wicket, the American Football pitch at The Moors and the artificial pitches at St John’s.

“When the football season is over, we continue to care for the pitches and the cricket wicket, but also mark out and maintain a 400m running track, rounders pitches and field event facilities for local schools.”

As with many groundsmen across the country, the biggest challenge facing Nigel is often the unpredictable British weather, and he admits that the recent floods have made his job far more testing.

“My working week is dominated by the weather forecast,” he says. “Pitches can’t be marked out or properly cut when the weather is wet, and this year has been particularly difficult.

“In a normal season, around 250 matches will be played on the various pitches, but this year there have been no games on some of them for an extended period due to the weather.”

Representatives of the FA visited Nigel last month, to examine how he was coping in the challenging conditions, before feeding their assessment back to the judging panel.

Nigel continues: “They came down to Battenhall to have a look around, examine the turf and speak to me about the pitches, information which they then passed on to the judges.

“When I received the email telling me I had been selected as Groundsman of the Year I was amazed and delighted. I’m now looking forward to the next stage of the awards.”

Mick Donovan, Head of the University’s Institute of Sport and Exercise Science, added: “This award is richly deserved and it is significant that one of Nigel’s greatest strengths is his desire to meet the needs of student athletes and coaches when preparing facilities for training and match days.

“There is a great sense of pride within the University’s sporting community in what Nigel has achieved.”