Fairways to Fair Pay: Groundstaff Equity in Sports Turf

Bradley Tennant of IGFH discusses the ongoing issue of subpar pay within the sports turf industry. 

In the serene landscapes of golf courses, football fields, and cricket grounds, where the beauty of meticulously maintained turf meets the passion of sports enthusiasts, a contentious issue often lingers in the background: the disparity in pay within the sports turf industry. 

Recently, the debate ignited on a Greenkeeping Facebook page, shedding light on the variances in wages for groundstaff and the need for a reevaluation of their salary structures.

The catalyst for this discussion was a job advert that, perhaps unintentionally, sparked a social media firestorm. The disabling of comments on posts with lower pay rates didn’t go unnoticed by the online community. A subsequent post addressing the comment disabling led to an unexpected deluge of over 600 comments, creating a platform for groundstaff to voice their concerns.

The Conundrum of Compensation: Dissecting Pay Disparities in Sports Turf Industries

One recurring observation that emerged from the discourse was the irony of golf clubs teetering on the edge of financial instability, yet being capable of remunerating general managers and golf pros with substantial salaries. The question echoed: How can these institutions justify paying their essential groundstaff less than a living wage while maintaining top-heavy salary structures?

The situation is similar with football, but as we are all aware, the football industry has substantial financial resources, especially in my home country (the UK). I strongly believe that working in a high-end club should be a privilege, and groundstaff should be compensated accordingly. This would likely help clubs to secure long-term staff, rather than staff who leave to chase a better-paid position elsewhere. 

There’s no denying that securing an apprenticeship at a top-tier football club is an incredible opportunity for those getting started in their careers. But once you work your way in, the pathways to financial progression are limited – the only option is usually to pursue a management role, of which there are scarce opportunities. Some clubs provide the opportunity for incremental salary increases for staff members who complete additional qualifications, but pay rises aren’t always guaranteed. 

The key reason why I see this as an issue is that the importance of the role of turf managers in top-tier football cannot be understated. Ensuring the safety of football pitches protects the club’s most valuable asset: the footballers. If a player gets injured due to poor pitch maintenance and has to take time off, their million-pound salary is money down the drain. A turf manager’s own salary should represent the significance of their position in ensuring the playing conditions are as safe as possible to greatly reduce injury risk.

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Brad visits Barcelona F.C in 2022

Elevating Industry Standards: The Case for Competitive Salaries

In my opinion, increasing the salaries of staff within the greenkeeping and grounds industries would not only recognize the importance of their roles, but also foster a stable and experienced workforce, as opposed to a constant turnover of staff.

But the challenge lies in finding a sustainable solution. Raising fees for golf courses is one option, but this brings the valid concern that clubs may alienate their members and decrease their facility usage, which will impact revenue and therefore deplete already limited funds. There’s clearly a delicate balance between securing fair pay for groundstaff and maintaining a viable business model in this particular sector.

Daryl and Damien - highlighting the industry at a school careers fair

What’s the Solution? A Call to Action in Our Community

Let’s consider the wider sports turf industry, including cricket grounds, rugby fields, and bowls. How can the entire sector elevate its profile and, in turn, the salaries of its staff? Should golf courses consider exploring sponsorships or hosting more tournaments to augment their revenue streams?

I have given a lot of thought to this topic, and I think it’s evident that a collective effort is required to effect meaningful change. The greenkeepers, groundstaff, and professionals within our industry must come together to propose viable solutions and advocate for fair compensation.

Let’s initiate a constructive dialogue, share ideas, and work collaboratively towards a more equitable and sustainable future for the dedicated staff who ensure our sports turfs remain a testament to excellence.

What do you, our reader, think can be done to raise the profile of our industry and secure better salaries for the staff? Leave a comment beneath this article with your thoughts.  

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2 thoughts on “Fairways to Fair Pay: Groundstaff Equity in Sports Turf”

  1. Recently we gained the reputation of Tripadvisor’s number 1 golf course in Essex, however none of our salaries have reciprocated this. I believe as a course or business progresses so should their staff whether that is paying more in salaries, offering higher end training and qualifications or both. I’m in total agreement that something needs to be done to save this industry and fast.

    I finished college last year and it’s sad to say there was a total of 5 students studying sports turf, however 20 years ago when my father was at the same college studying the same subject there was over 25 students. I believe the salaries plays a big part in this as there is no financial motivation to get youngsters into the industry.

  2. Even after many years in the industry, and constantly trying to educate the membership, we still seem to classed as grass cutters.
    They dont seem to be interested in the science in looking after grass, because they cut their lawn once a week.

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