Life in lockdown: Albion's groundstaff

Although the Amex and training ground have been closed since the coronavirus outbreak, staff are still working at both venues. We spoke to Head Groundsman Steve Winterburn about life for his team during the lockdown.

By Bruce Talbot • 23 April 2020

The Amex Stadium pitch is being renovated earlier than usual.

Steve, how many staff have you got work at the stadium and training ground?

The ground staff have been working to adjusted hours to meet the social distancing rules but also to attend to essential works on the pitches. At the Amex up to five staff are working and helping contractors we have on site. At the training ground we have up to nine staff covering essential pitch maintenance split into three teams. They are also carrying out renovation works on certain pitches. This is happening a bit earlier in the year than would have been the case normally.

Because there is no football, have you brought forward renovation work at either venue and, if so, what’s been involved?

We have been carrying out the annual renovation works to the Amex pitch and also to six of our training ground pitches which is much earlier as we would still be in season and should have been playing Liverpool on Monday!

We made the decision early to have pitches ready not just for the rest of this season, when it starts again, but also in case we run straight into next season very quickly afterwards. If that is the case, there probably wouldn’t be the time needed to renovate pitches.

By Paul Hazlewood
The American Express Community Stadium

If games took place in the summer months, would it pose any special challenges for you?

No not really. This is an unprecedented situation, so we have had to be flexible and there have been challenges we’ve had to overcome to ensure pitches are both maintained and prepared for when play resumes again.

Are there any jobs your staff can’t do because of the lockdown? For instance, are supplies for your work still getting through?

There has been difficulty at times getting certain materials and equipment we would normally use, but for the renovation works at the Amex and training ground we are fortunate to have very good working relationships with our suppliers and they worked hard to get the materials we needed to us in time. Mind you, we’ve had to be flexible and have other options in mind if plan A failed. I think I got to about plan E at one stage!

But there are jobs that we have left for the time being and will pick up on once some sort of normality resumes. Unfortunately, work on the additional pitches planned at the training ground have had to come to a halt for now.

The last few weeks must have been very challenging?

The club are fortunate to have some very good ground staff (and a Workshop Manager) who are very committed and know how to react quickly to the needs of the pitches as conditions and situations change. For instance, after six months of almost daily rainfall during the winter we have almost overnight gone into a drought!

This meant a sudden change of maintenance operations as well dealing with issues surrounding Covid-19. But they have adapted well, like the rest of the staff at the club.