'A great environment to work in and a superb club'

As part of National Grounds Week, we caught up with head grounds person Phil Fifield to talk about all things turf.

By Bruce Talbot • 25 March 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Head Groundsman Phil Fifield

How many groundstaff work across the two sites and what is the split?

At the stadium there's myself (head grounds person), Luke Chapman (senior grounds person) and Lewis Turner and Ryan Matthews

At the training ground there are 18 members of staff, including our mechanics, with some new joiners adding to those numbers soon.

Do some members work at both venues and how is it decided who works where?

Match day operations are often supported by training ground staff, either after their morning shift at the training ground or with us early morning for match preparation. We also have eight match day staff who assist us with preparations and post-match repairs and do a terrific job closing divots.

It has been a wet and at times very cold winter. What sort of special challenge has this posed for our grounds’ teams?

We have had more rainfall already than we did throughout last season and we still have two months to play.

It's an all-weather industry and we adapt to what nature throws at us. For us this winter has meant daily brushing to try and keep excess moisture off the grass leaf to help promote good health and suppress disease, whilst managing aeration works around games to aid surface drainage, decompaction and oxygenate the rootzone to encourage healthy root growth.

Is dealing with wet and cold conditions worse than when it’s 40degs as it was last summer?

You can have everything planned but when faced with sudden changes in weather we need to react quickly and adapt plans accordingly.

It's been a year of extreme weather. The club reacted well to the challenges last summer by allowing us to bring in turf fans to help air movement and cool the surface. Whilst the heatwave was intense it was relatively short when compared to the wet winter we've had. Again, the turf fans have come in handy to help move moisture away from the grass leave during damp and growth has been encouraged over the winter with the use of supplementary grow lights.

By Paul Hazlewood
More than 20 groundstaff work at the Amex and the American Express Elite Performance Centre.

What more has been done in the last 12 months in terms of improving sustainability and environmental protection?

Using equipment such as the turf fans have helped to promote good health without relying too heavily and solely on fungicides. We have tried to manage our pesticide applications very tightly and focus on promoting good health with a higher bio-stimulant programme to encourage healthy growth organically.

After spraying the pitch, we reuse the residue of the product for some of the landscape areas at the Amex memorial garden to minimise waste. All our cylinders mowers are electric to move away from fossil fuel dependency, and waste to water and recycling wash-down bays are being installed at both sites to reduce water usage and recycle what water is used for cleaning equipment.

All green waste is removed from site and turned into fertile compost at a green waste site, something I can see us doing in-house in the future.

What do you think will be the biggest development in the maintenance of grass surfaces in the next five years, perhaps some innovation or product which is going to be ground-breaking (sorry for the pun!)

The industry will be moving towards a more sustainable and economical approach with a focus on green initiatives. As a department we are already looking at LED grow lights and moving away from HPS bulbs to reduce energy consumption and light pollution.

They'll be more restrictions on what pesticides can be used, whilst good sound agronomy and soil biology will always be key to the job. We have already been looking at alternative disease prevention methods that do not involve pesticides, such as bio-fungicides, as well as UVC light scanning to remove pathogens and suppress leaf disease. We’re also looking at sanitising our surfaces and soils with Ozone (a combination of Oxygen and CO²). It's an ever changing and rapidly evolving industry, the advancements I've seen since joining the industry 18 years ago have been astounding.

What would you say to a young person interested in working on the grounds team and how do they get started?

There's no better place to work and no office greater than the pitch you work on. You get back from the industry it as much as you're willing to put in, be it improving pitches for teams to train on day in day out or providing the best surface possible for a match. It's a career that's taken me to nearly 30 different countries and over ten national stadiums, so the scope is incredibly vast.

It's a challenge, but a good challenge. Our groundstaff have worked exceptionally hard this year with the Women's Euros and longer season, and the club have been great at acknowledging this and have granted additional time off to balance the workload. It’s important to remember that staff are not just grounds people but people who happen to work in the grounds Industry. It’s a great environment to work in and a superb club.

I joined the industry after helping at local football clubs on match days and then did a work-based apprenticeship. Whilst this route is still available there are online training courses available via the Grounds Management Association (

What’s the best part of your job and is there a worst part?

Seeing the pitch presented on a match day ready for kick off. Every grain of sand, gram of seed or fertiliser, millimetre of irrigation and litre of foliar is calculated to try produce the best surfaces. Seeing this all come together as planned and delivered on a match day is always rewarding. The worst? The time between finishing your work on the pitch and waiting for kick-off on a match day!

Are all the members of the grounds team Brighton fans and will you all be able to go to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final?

The majority are but all want to see the club do well and help support them. There will be as many of us as possible a Wembley and I'm sure we will all be in good voice too.