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People: Two female college students beat hundreds of male applicants to land roles at Man City

Apprentices for Manchester City FC’s groundsteam

Published in Sports Management 30 May 2016 issue 121
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Croft and Massey work with head groundsman Lee Metcalfe
Croft and Massey work with head groundsman Lee Metcalfe

Two college students have become the talk of the groundskeeping industry after securing roles at Manchester City Football Club (MCFC). Katie Croft (20) and Tara Massey (18) are the only two female students to currently work as part of pitch care teams at a top-flight English football club.

Chosen from hundreds of (mainly male) applicants and following a rigorous recruitment process, Croft and Massey now maintain the playing surfaces at the City Football Academy complex in East Manchester under the direction of the club’s head groundsman Lee Metcalfe.

While working, both youngsters are studying towards a qualification in sports turf with Myerscough College. Croft says working for one of the world’s top clubs has been a dream come true.

“I was bit starstruck at first when I saw the players but quickly realised there is a job to do and now it’s just the norm.” she says. “The facilities here are world-class and it’s amazing to be able to work in such an inspiring environment. It’s great to see that what we do has an impact on the performance of the team.”

For both girls, a career in sport has been a conscious choice – rather than something they fell into. “I had been in education at sixth form before I applied for the apprenticeship,” Massey says. “I had lost interest and knew deep down that I wanted to be outdoors and to work in a practical setting. I don’t like being stuck indoors and being behind a desk was definitely not for me.”

Croft’s journey to preparing pitches for the likes of Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure included a detour in tourism. “I didn’t know what to do in high school,” she says. “I eventually settled on a job working in customer services at Manchester Airport. When I saw the apprenticeship advertised I knew I had to go for it.”

Metcalfe, the head groundsman, says the experience has been mutually beneficial. “It’s fantastic to have Katie and Tara as part of the team,” he says. “They bring a fresh energy to the team and are both serious about developing their skills and progressing within the industry.

“I’d recommend apprenticeships to other employers looking at an opportunity to bring fresh talent into the industry, and as a club we are committed to ensuring these opportunities are truly available to all.”

Women have traditionally been conspicuous by their absence from the groundskeeping sector – although getting an accurate picture is difficult. The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG), which represents groundskeeping staff in the UK, doesn’t currently keep a record on the number of female workers.

Young trailblazer Massey, however, encourages other young  women to consider working with turf as a viable career option. “I would say to other young women interested in the industry to not be scared, do not be put off and to just go for it.

“It’s a great job where no two days are the same, you have to solve lots of problems but you can often quickly see the rewards for you efforts.

“I never realised there was so much to the job. In the future I would like to progress both in my role and in my education and take things as far as I can.”

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