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Swansea City’s Groundsman Wins Premier League Award

Fri 17th May 2013 | Football Stadiums & Facilities

A fantastic footballing year for Wales has ended with Swansea City adding another trophy to this season’s list of achievements, after Dan Duffy was named Barclays Premier League Groundsman of the Year.

Run by The Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), the Groundsman of the Year awards recognise the importance of the quality of pitches for professional football, encourage all groundstaff to produce high quality pitches and acknowledge the head groundsmen and their staff who produce the best playing surfaces in each division.

In addition to Swansea City, five other Barclays Premier League clubs were highly commended for the work of their groundsmen: Paul Ashcroft (Arsenal), Jonathan Calderwood (Aston Villa), Dave McCulloch (Liverpool), Lee Jackson (Manchester City) and Andrew Gray (Southampton).

The scoring system for Groundsman of the Year is based on specific aspects of pitch and management performance. It is compiled using marks from referees, match delegates and opposing managers, there is also a pitch assessment visit by the STRI and an assessment of each clubs’ management of the pitch.  

The STRI noted that the “pitches of the Premier League clubs were all to a very high standard” but singled the Liberty Stadium given that both the Swans and Ospreys rugby union side play there.

“The pitch at Swansea consistently received high marks from the referees and match delegates and, considering the heavy level of play through joint use with football and rugby and the logistical issues in producing playing surfaces for both sports, Dan Duffy is a worthy winner,” said the STRI report.

Duffy started off as a groundsman in Sydney, Australia. He has worked at the top level of cricket, rugby league and rugby union, before moving to the UK where he got his first taste of British football with Haverfordwest in the Welsh Premier League.

And it is an award Duffy feels is reward for the amount of work he and his team put into ensuring Michael Laudrup’s side have the perfect pitch to play on in every home game. His normal working day for a Swans match starts at 3am and finishes at 10pm.

“The award says my name on it, but really it’s an award for the whole team I have working with me,” said Duffy, who started at the Liberty in 2005.

“A lot of time and hard work goes into ensuring the surface is in great shape, so there is no way I could have accomplished this without Dan Kirton, Ben Arthure, James Williams and Evan Davies. It’s certainly a challenging job, particularly with the rugby team playing here too, but it’s one we all enjoy. We take a lot of pride from seeing the pitch in great condition.”

He added: “The Swans obviously pride themselves on playing free-flowing football, so we know how crucial having a pitch in top condition is for them.  It’s a great honour for us to receive this award. To be regarded as the best in the Premier League is a great accomplishment for my team.”

With around 55 football and rugby matches to deal with on average per season, the grounds team at the Liberty could face their biggest challenge next season if the Swans progress into the Europa League Group Stages.

“I would love to have a season where we have to deal with 65 games in all, plus training sessions,” added Duffy. “That would be a massive challenge for us. Having top clubs come to the Liberty Stadium to play in the Europa League is another good challenge for us to rise to as a grounds team.

“And, I must add, that the Stadium Management and Swansea City have been great. They have recognised the equipment needed – about £200,000 was spent last season on two high-tech lighting rigs - and they’ve worked closely with myself and my team to ensure we produce the best playing surface possible. Next season will be another massive test for us all. But, like the supporters, we are all relishing it.”

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

 

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