After winning the SALTEX College Cup for the second year running, students from CAFRE College in Antrim, Northern Ireland, enjoyed an unforgettable experience of helping with pitch preparations at the 2018 Six Nations Championships at BT Murrayfield Stadium.
The SALTEX College Cup, sponsored by Ransomes, and organised by the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG), is a national student-led sports-turf challenge. It is an academic test of turf management knowledge for student competitors who are enrolled at colleges throughout the UK on relevant courses of study. Launched at the show in 2016, CAFRE was the first college to have its name engraved on the trophy and as part of the prize, the winning students were part of the Wembley grounds team at the 2017 FA Cup Final.
CAFRE returned to SALTEX 2017 where they saw off competition from four other colleges to reclaim the trophy. As well as receiving a £500 cheque and £50 Amazon vouchers for each student, the CAFRE team was presented with another prize that money can’t buy – preparing the pitch at the 2018 Six Nations Championships for the Scotland vs England game.
The CAFRE team arrived at BT Murrayfield on the Friday afternoon before Saturday’s match and were soon mowing the pitch – firmly cementing the students’ names on the very small and exclusive list of people to have cut the BT Murrayfield pitch.
After a 7am start on the big day, the CAFRE team were part of the busy yet meticulously planned pitch preparations, and it would not be long before their work would be broadcasted to millions worldwide.
Commenting on the day, CAFRE student Matthew Barr said: “I found the whole experience incredible and one that I will never forget. I also learnt a lot of new techniques that I will be able to implement in my own work.
“My personal highlights of the weekend were being part of the grounds team and watching Scotland beat England for the first time in 10 years – the atmosphere was fantastic! Everyone was so welcoming and friendly.”
Alex Latto, assistant head groundsman at BT Murrayfield grounds team, was delighted to have the CAFRE students working alongside him: “Hosting the winners of the SALTEX College Cup was something we were really keen to do. Having the opportunity to help develop further some of the most promising students the turf care industry has to offer was a great experience for us.
The lads demonstrated good knowledge and practical experience and were willing to muck in with the unglamorous jobs associated with event set up. They left us with the assurance that they’d had an educational and enjoyable experience and we enjoyed working alongside them.”
Dan Prest, the IOG’s head of membership services, felt honoured to see such a finely tuned grounds team at work and was quick to thank everyone involved.
“I was amazed by the willingness of the BT Murrayfield grounds team to be here, there and everywhere for the greater good. It really was a case of all hands to the pump but they still gave the CAFRE students the best possible experience.
“Many thanks to Ransomes for their continuing support of this competition, Garry Blackadder, Jim Dawson, Alex Latto and Joanne Laing at BT Murrayfield for their support, work ethic and good nature in allowing the winners of the SALTEX College Cup to assist in a Six Nations’ match that will go down in history.”
All colleges interested in participating in the 2018 SALTEX College Cup should email Dan Prest at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.