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Keith Kent

Head groundskeeper, RFU and Rugby World Cup 2015

Published in Sports Management 2015 issue 3
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Keith Kent, Head Groundskeeper
Keith Kent, Head Groundskeeper

As Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) head groundskeeper, Keith Kent is responsible for the most hallowed turf in rugby – the green grass of Twickenham. This year, his work will be under extra scrutiny, as England hosts the Rugby World Cup. In the run up to the showcase event, Kent is being kept busy with extra work – he’s been assisting the other World Cup venues ensure their pitches will be ready in time and up to standard.

“We hosted the groundsmen of the World Cup’s football venues – the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa, Milton Keynes, Brighton and Leicester – at Twickenham for the England vs South Africa game,” Kent says. “As part of the experience, they were given the opportunity to inspect the pitch after the game to learn about the effects. I’ve also held seminars around the country, inviting as many of the groundsmen from the training venues as possible. There are 41 World Cup venues in total, so I’ve been unable to visit all of them.

“However we’ve worked with a company called Professional Sportsturf Design to ensure each site has been visited and assessed by a team of experts to ascertain what needs to be done.”

Kent is in an ideal position to understand the differences between football and rugby pitches – he took the top job at RFU following a 30-year career in football. After leaving school at 16, he spent 17 years at Leicester City, most of that time as head groundskeeper. From there he went to become head groundskeeper of Manchester United where he spent 15 years. At Old Trafford, he worked on the Euro 96 tournament – another experience he can draw on while preparing for this year’s Rugby World Cup.

“Learning from the Euro 96 tournament, I’ve been telling everyone involved with the World Cup to enjoy the time that they have with the teams,” Kent says.

“This is perhaps a once in a lifetime experience and although it takes years to get here it’s gone in such a short space of time. We hosted five games at Old Trafford in Euro 96 and I can remember it as though it were yesterday.

“I’ve been pointing out to the groundskeeper that there will be cameras broadcasting their facilities and turfs into front rooms all over the world – and to remember that you only have one chance to make a first impression. It is important that we as groundsmen show the world just how good we are.”

Kent says he’s proud of British groundsmen and what he’s seen during his travels around the country in preparation for the World Cup. “I’m always impressed with the skill, knowledge and dedication of the British groundskeeper.

“We have a knack, a feel for the job and almost everyone that I know enjoys what he or she is doing. It’d be wrong of me to say we’re the best in the world but I’d paraphrase the late, great Brian Clough: “We’re certainly in the top one.”

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