Bob Smith, formerly head groundsman for 16 years at Derby County FC’s Baseball ground stadium, has won the IOG ICL & Syngenta Lifetime Achievement 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 Bob by Ed Carter from ICL and Syngenta’s Caroline Carroll in front of an audience of more than 600 of the UK’s and Europe’s leading groundscare experts, as well as dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators
Now 73 years of age and still an active IOG member, Bob joined Derby County when he was 24 years of age, having previously worked at a British Rail cricket ground for two years. He proudly points out that within 12 months, the ground was hosting lots of major competitions – for bowls as well as cricket – including all-England finals. It is, however, his years at the Baseball Ground that he looks back on most fondly.
“When I joined Derby County, in 1967, I was told that I’d never be able to grow grass at the ground. We started the season mid-August and manager Brian Clough said that if I can keep some grass on the pitch until the end of August then I would be doing well!
Bob can relate numerous anecdotes of his time with the club and of Brian Clough – many still remember the 1977 Match of the Day televised pictures and commentary by John Motson when the groundsman (Bob) was broadcast painting in the penalty spot.
“The work there was certainly a way of life,” he reflects. “On match day it was not unusual for me to be at the ground at 4am, and while at the start of my career there I was certainly multi-tasking – which on one occasion actually saw me delivering transfer papers to a player – during the latter years we expanded the team to five at the stadium and two at the training ground.”
Bob can count a number of ‘firsts’ in the world of groundsmanship – he was the first to use the Contravator overseeding machine to create slits/slots for the grass seed to drop into, he was the first football groundsman to manage a sand-based pitch and he was the first groundsman in the country to use pop-up sprinklers. In all three cases, these technologies are now in widespread use at sports grounds up and down the country.
Today, Bob continues to attend IOG Branch, regional and national events, and remains a friend to many in the industry.
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."