Clapton CFC wins GMA best volunteer ground team award

Earlier this year the Clapton CFC grounds committee were nominated for the Grounds Management Association Award for best volunteer groundsperson or team for their work on the Old Spotted Dog Ground. Since then we had to send off more info and they sent down a judge. He told us this was the most competitive category with over 300 applications – so for us to be considered as finalists was already an achievement. Big thanks to Gary Lee, the groundsman at Tottenham Hotspur who nominated us.

On Wednesday, two of us from the grounds group travelled up to Leeds for the GMA awards dinner at Headingley Stadium. Up in the carpeted heights we enjoyed the view from one side over the Leeds Rhinos rugby pitch and on the other side the oval of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. We drank our free Coronas and settled into the night. There were hundreds of people from the groundskeeping industry there, everyone dressed to impress. Hayley McQueen off the TV presented the evening while we sat at table 9 with some very nice and chatty people.

After dinner they rattled through the awards. We were up against Tom Banks who has been a volunteer groundsperson at Kirkoswald FC in Cumbria. After 9 years of work he’s turned a grazing field into a fantastic looking football pitch for the local community. He also has worked with a tiny budget, a DIY ethos, and roping in spare hands to volunteer when possible. He was a really good guy who we would’ve happily lost to and we sincerely hope he gets the recognition he deserves.

After getting the award we stumbled through some sort of a thank you and awkwardly said nice things about how great Clapton is before getting back to our pints. As the evening went on we had plenty of people coming up to congratulate us, to ask about the club and a couple said they followed us already and liked our message.

One of the conversations that came up was the distinction between how we work as volunteers and how the waged job is organised. A few people we spoke to us about the long (often solitary) hours they’re working, and the personal sacrifices they make for the pitches and their jobs. We talked about how many of us there were at CCFC, the skills sharing, and how we organise our own work mainly through meetings – and how all of these very social things reflect the fact that we’re making it work outside the influence of a wage structure.

After staying with incredibly hospitable friends from Republica Leeds, I was walking back to the station and saw a bridge with ‘NEITHER WORK NOR LEISURE’ faintly painted on it. It hit the nail on the head, we need to learn skills, work together, and meet deadlines every week but it’s serious and meaningful fun. We should appreciate the award as a nod from people who really know what they’re talking about, who recognise what we’ve done and can see more potential in us. I’m excited to be able to add it to the trophy cabinet at the clubhouse – but ultimately it’s for the club, the OSD and each other that we do this, so every home game we can get on is already a win for us.

Forza Clapton!