Bury St Edmunds RUFC was founded in 1925 and play in National League 3 London & SE. During the 2012–13 season the club were unbeaten and were promoted to their current position with three matches to spare. Andy Spetch is the volunteer groundsman and has been involved with the club for 27 years. He took up the role as volunteer groundsman 8 years ago when he stopped playing rugby and, as he knew a little about the grass and soil, was asked to take up the job by the committee.
Bury St Edmunds RUFC was founded in 1925 and play in National League 3 London & SE. During the 2012–13 season the club were unbeaten and were promoted to their current position with three matches to spare. Andy Spetch is the volunteer groundsman and has been involved with the club for 27 years. He took up the role as volunteer groundsman 8 years ago when he stopped playing rugby and, as he knew a little about the grass and soil, was asked
to take up the job by the committee.
Under his remit are three full size pitches, six acres of mini pitches for ages 6 to 12 and a three quarter size all weather 3G pitch. He is supported by a team of ‘Old Boys’, as he calls them, eight mostly retired volunteers who help out in busy times.
His maintenance regime started with drawing up a budget, which was one of the things he dictated when taking on the job because if he was going to do it he was going to do it properly! For example, the pitches had never previously had any de-compaction work done to them. This meant they were solid and when it rained heavily there was puddling. Grass growth was also very patchy and the rooting depth was minimal meaning that whenever there was a
scrum it was pulled out and wouldn’t recover.
“The first part of my action plan,” he says, “was aeration and to champion it we hosted an ‘IOG In Action’ day at the club on Verti Draining which helped convince the committee it was a worthwhile activity. Whilst I now use a contractor for deep tine aeration, we purchased a slitter so we can apply surface aeration on a regular basis.” Andy has attended a number of IOG courses in his own time and spent a lot of time with IOG representatives. From these activities he has learnt a lot from listening and asking questions and applied what he’s learnt to his work at the club.
He made it clear to the committee that it was vital they purchased quality seed because before this they were using mix and match, poor quality seeds. From his experience, and IOG courses, Andy knew he needed to use some kind of Perennial Ryegrass and a proper amenity mixture to provide the establishment and results the club wanted. It helped that in his day job (Andy is National Top Soil Manager for British Sugar) he goes to a number of exhibitions like BTME and Saltex. Through these shows he got to know Roger Peacock of DLF/Johnsons Sports Seeds. Roger suggested Pro-Master 80 from their Masterline range as it was an ideal mixture for the renovation of worn playing surfaces and
represented unbeatable value. It establishes rapidly and the inclusion of Double 4turf™ tetraploid perennial ryegrass in the mixture provides a hard wearing turf with excellent colour and disease resistance.
This was sown in Mid-May and indeed showed rapid establishment. The irrigation system they had installed around the ground helped to get the seed going and the following weather provided perfect growing conditions. “It starts with quality seed,” he says, “and then it’s all down to the maintenance regime to provide proper aeration, irrigation and never being mowing lower than 2½ inches. Doing that has protected and preserved the playing surface. I’m also intrigued to see how hardy Masterline Pro-Master 80 will be through the winter.”
Andy gains a lot of recognition for his dedication to the job but he doesn’t do it for that – he is passionate about the club also serving as a committee member as well as finding time to do some coaching!