Close-up: Martin Brummel, Grounds Manager at AFC Ajax: "The future Groundsman will become a Grounds Operator"

ESSMA interviewed Martin Brummel, Grounds Manager at training centre “De Toekomst” of AFC Ajax. Martin has over 30 years of greenkeeper experience in both the golf and football industry. His career at AFC Ajax started in 2015 with daily tasks like pitch quality improvement, data collection and looking for/implementing innovations. Delegates of our Pitch Management Workshop, taking place 17 and 18 April in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), will have the opportunity to visit the training centre “De Toekomst”. 

How was the transition from golf to football? What is the main difference and what can be learned from golf?

Before my career at AFC Ajax, I volunteered at the amateur football club where my son is playing, so I already had some ‘football’ experience before joining the AFC Ajax team. According to my experience, the main difference is the use of maintenance techniques. 

What we can learn from the golf industry are the preparation and integration of a fertilisation plan, in-depth knowledge about the soil, different types of grass and most importantly ‘knowing is measuring’. On the other hand, the golf industry can learn more about LED grow lighting, hybrid, GPS line marking, regularly pitch renewal, etc. from football.

Which facilities are present at the training centre?

We have 4 GrassMaster hybrid pitches, 3.5 artificial pitches and 4 natural grass pitches , a MiCoach/performance centre, a gym, a “De Toekomst” school, an athletic skills track and a restaurant. 

The women’s football team, the youth teams (-8 up to -19), Jong Ajax, Ajax XI and five amateur teams train and play at our training centre. Training sessions are held 4 to 5 times per week plus matches.  

In terms of the grounds team and equipment, which resources do you have at your disposition? 

We are with six full-time and three part-time employees in total. In terms of equipment we work with:

  • x2 John Deere JD Gator 855D and other John Deere machines
  • Empas weedcontrol and sprayer
  • A line marking machine
  • Sisis three-points brush
  • FS 410 C clearing saw
  • Dew brush
  • Other tools: Sisis Quadraplay, chain saws, rake, aeration equipment, several mowers, etc.

Can you explain how you manage, plan and minimize the impact on the pitches?

Currently we work with EMS management software from NL Adviseurs, which includes planning, registering, archiving, financial aspect, materials, etc. In addition to the software, we also use the ProSoccerData app.

The future Groundsman will become a Grounds Operator.

How is the collaboration with Paul Baas, Field Manager at Amsterdam ArenA to ensure comparable pitches? 

We have bi-weekly meetings during which we carry out performance measurements to analyse and evaluate the current state of our pitches. The day after each match, we evaluate the pitch together with the AFC Ajax technical staff and this feedback is transferred to Paul as well.

What is the role of technology with regard to the pitch?

It is clear that technology is starting to play a more important role on daily activities. There is an increasing amount of new technologies: sensors, robotics, drones, GPS, cloud, web- and app-based technologies etc. In my opinion, the future Groundsman will become a Grounds Operator.  

How do you see the overall evolution of pitch management?

In 5 to 10 years, the future Groundsmen will have to be able to read, translate, transfer and implement the data to increase pitch knowledge and know-how. Furthermore, technologies (e.g. computers) will support Groundsmen into taking the right decision. Of course you have to stay up-to-date with the industry by reading dedicated articles, sharing knowledge with colleagues, following social media, etc. 

According to you, what role can ESSMA play in the evolution of Pitch Management?

Uniting the involved European groups by offering them a platform where they can share knowledge, innovations and best practices. 

What would you advise the new generation of pitch managers? 

Keep expanding your network and share new gathered knowledge within your own organisation. Keep up to date with innovations and best practices. To measure is to know, trust on your instinct, but translate this to quantified data to support your actions. This way you - and the organisation - can make the right decision based on proven facts.

Posted on 28/03/2018 in: