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British groundskeepers are in charge of maintaining 10 of the Euro 2020 tournament’s 11 pitches.
The UK has been described as the “Silicon Valley of turf” with our experts being hailed as world leaders.
Ahead of tomorrow’s “Battle of Britain” between England and Scotland, praise has been heaped on the nation’s top groundskeepers.
And we can reveal they even have a special WhatsApp group to discuss the football venues of Europe, from Baku and Budapest to London and Glasgow.
FIFA pitch guru Richard Hayden told the Mirror: “The UK is absolutely at the top of the industry. It really is the Silicon Valley of turf. It is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to groundkeeping.
"I go around the world and some clubs in some countries have no problem spending £20million on a player then they moan about paying for an extra bag of grass seed. Of the 11 venues for the Euros, there are 10 Brits in charge of the pitches at each stadium.”
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Jonathan Calderwood at his ‘office’, the Parc des Princes stadium
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Irishman Hayden is the one non-Brit.
He is the author of Fifa’s handbook on pitch maintenance and oversees the pitch in St Petersburg, Russia.
He added: “We do have a WhatsApp group which we set up where we share information. It has been very useful.
“The Premier League has really helped us all. The teams realise just how important a quality pitch is to their teams – it can be like an extra player.”
Karl Standley is in charge of Wembley’s turf, on which tomorrow’s big match will be played. Kick-off, in front of 22,000 fans, is at 8pm. Standley is responsible for maintaining the precious turf that is hosting all of England’s group games, as well as the semi-finals and final.
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Karl Standley makes Buck Palace pitch
His work is overseen by UEFA expert Dale Frith, who started his career at Fleetwood Town FC.
Mr Standley, who has a diploma in greenkeeping and groundsmanship, said: “It’s not a job for me, it’s a passion.” He said the Wembley pitch was like a second child because it “lives and breathes just like one”.
He also revealed: “We have planned for this tournament for years.”
The amount of work that goes in is immense. Within minutes of the game against Croatia finishing on Sunday, an army of ground staff descended to mow the pitch and replace any divots.
British groundskeepers are so highly rated across the world that a transfer market of sorts is developing.
Many of the best have been head-hunted for high-paying jobs in some of Europe’s greatest cities. Sometimes they take their own staff with them, like high-profile managers.
In 2016 Tony Stones, head groundskeeper at Wembley, was signed up to care for the Stade de France, the French national side’s stadium in Paris.
In 2013 Villa’s Jonathan Calderwood was signed by Paris St Germain and in 2009 Paul Burgess, who maintained pitches at Arsenal, was snapped up by Real Madrid.
As excitement mounts ahead of tomorrow’s game, bookies said Scotland fans are piling in to bet on their team, even though they are 11-1 outsiders. Betfair experts have been surprised by some of the bets laid.
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The firm’s Sam Rosbottom said: “This clash between the Auld Enemy looks set to the biggest mismatch in years.
“Scotland turn up at Wembley as huge underdogs but many believe they’ve still got a chance of upsetting the odds, as more individual bets have been placed on a Tartan Army shock victory than a win for odds-on favourites England.
“A few optimistic punters are even backing Scotland to win 4-0, at mammoth odds of 200/1.”