Based at Leicester City Football Club’s new state-of-the-art training facility in Seagrave, north Leicestershire, the club’s Sports Turf Academy aims to inspire the next generation of sports turf students by offering an elite training environment, with access to the latest technology and expertise.
The Academy is built around four distinct pillars – Education & Training, Technical Services, Tournament Support and Trials & Research – to support the development, diversification and professionalisation of the sports turf industry.
The 185-acre complex at Seagrave has 21 playing surfaces in total, including 14 full-size pitches – one indoors in the King Power Centre – and two show pitches for use in selected matches by the club’s Development Squad and Academy. There is also a 9-hole private golf course, for use by players and staff.
These are now being maintained by a new fleet of 32 John Deere sprayers, mowers, compact tractors and Gator utility vehicles supplied by local dealer Farol Ltd at Hinckley, which will also be supported by the dealership’s brand new outlet at Newark.
Machines include two GPS PrecisionSprayers based on the ProGator utility vehicle, 8000E and 2750E hybrid electric ride-on cylinder mowers, 7700A PrecisionCut cylinder and 7400A TerrainCut rotary ride-on mowers with TechControl display, a 1600T wide-area rotary mower, X950R rear-collect lawn tractor and Z997R zero-turn rotaries, 2036R and 3038R compacts, and TE electric and XUV 855 plus 855 S4 Gators.
Leicester City FC bought the first of the new environmentally friendly John Deere sprayers to be delivered to a non-golf customer in the UK, as part of the package agreement.
“The Sports Turf Academy is designed to be a hub of innovation and professional development,” says John Ledwidge, Leicester City FC’s head of sports turf & grounds. “Our aim is to be world leaders in the training and education of the current and next generation of sports turf and grounds staff, while applying that learning to live working environments. As well as creating a world-class facility at our new training ground, we aspire to be world-class in the way we operate.
“Adopting this new precision technology from John Deere will help in our aim to be as efficient and environmentally sustainable as possible in everything we do. There were many reasons for choosing the sprayer, the chief one being accuracy. It means we can apply exactly what is required without overspraying or overspending.”
The training grounds and golf course are maintained to the highest standards by 18 pitch staff, 10 garden and landscaping staff and four greenkeepers, led by John Ledwidge and senior sports turf & grounds manager Callum Allsop. There are also four staff based in the well-equipped workshop, including two apprentices, with the machinery fleet monitored by workshop manager Chris Minton and his deputy Colin Barkby using the TurfKeeper web portal.
“Knowing that we needed to make a very significant investment in new equipment, we went through a very robust, rigorous and transparent tender process,” says John. “We invited all the key players to demonstrate their latest, greatest and best machines, and the whole process ended up taking almost a year to complete – it was extremely thorough.
“Aside from the basic transaction, it was just as important for us to be able to establish a long-term relationship with the chosen supplier. It became clear after visiting John Deere’s UK HQ at Langar, where we were given a very comprehensive presentation by the company and the dealership, that their values and aspirations aligned very much with ours.
“My deputy Callum, working closely with Chris, was instrumental in bringing all the tender documentation and figures together, looking particularly at machine usability and serviceability. All the grounds and workshop staff completed feedback forms, so everyone was invested in the process and contributed to the final decision.
“The final choice was then presented to and approved by all the club’s Board of directors, including communications, finance, operations and the procurement team. All involved were impressed by the efforts and lengths that John Deere and Farol went to before the deal was signed – ultimately the decision was a very easy one for us to make.”