The Dorset County Football Association is pleased to announce Mark Sheldon of Poole High School as the Dorset Groundsperson of the Year 2023.
The awards are open for all clubs operating at Step 7 and below of the football pyramid, and were set up to recognise the contribution of these unsung heroes of the grassroots game and encourage the development of groundsmanship.
Longfleet Youth FC are based at Poole High School and have over 18 teams using the grass pitches on a regular basis. The club nominated Mark for the award having worked with Mark and his Estates team to access Football Foundation funding to improve the quality of the grass pitches. In 2021, the pitches on site were assessed to provide a performance quality standard. At this time the pitches were assessed as of poor quality. Following receiving funding through the Football Foundation Grass Pitch Maintenance programme and putting in place a maintenance programme the pitches have since rated as Good, which is testament to all the hard work put in by Mark and his grounds team.
The majority of football in this country is played outside the Football League. Quality pitches are therefore essential for the development of football at every level. Grassroots groundsman, the vast majority of whom are volunteers, play a huge role in ensuring pitches are in their best possible condition, week in, week out. The Awards recognise those who work in all weathers, all year round, to make sure that thousands of matches can take place on a high standard of playing surface.
Sponsoring the Dorset awards again this year were Fleet Line Markers UK who were pleased to be able to offer an amazing first prize to the winner of a Kombi Line Marker and 2 Drums of Super C paint, with second and third placed finalists also winning some excellent prizes.
Mark was presented with his award by Kath Purnell, Dorset FA Facilities & Investment Lead and Simon Moore, Area Sales Manager from Fleet Line Markers.
This year's winner Mark Sheldon, said: "Thank you to Longfleet Youth for nominating me for this award. I am really overwhelmed to have received this honour. It's really amazing to be recognised for the job that I do at the school."
Peter Myers, Operational Systems Manager at Poole High School, said: "We are so proud of Mark and the recognition that he has received. Being recognised externally is rarely seen and for this to happen to Mark demonstrates the level to which he has worked to improve the pitches which is fantastic. Really well done and congratulations."
Kath Purnell, Dorset FA Facilities Officer, said: "On behalf of the Dorset County Football Association i would like to thank all those groundsman around the County that do such an amazing job to keep their pitches in tip top condition sometimes under the worst conditions possible. Mark has done an amazing job maintaining the pitches at Poole High School not only for the benefit of the pupils at the school but also for Longfleet Youth and grassroots football. Following accessing the Football Foundation Grass Pitch Funding, Mark was able to put in place a maintenance programme that has delivered a pitch of a high standard and should be commended for all his hard work."
Bev Bowers, Committee Member at Longfleet Youth FC, said: "It was lovely to see Mark recognised for all his hard work and dedication to improving the pitches at Poole High, which Longfleet Youth FC use as their home ground for all youth and female teams. During the first 2 years of the funding project the improvements have been amazing. Well done Mark, a very well deserved award. "
The Dorset FA would like to thank all those groundsman that were nominated in this year’s awards. Following an assessment of all entries we would like to congratulate this year’s winners.
1st Place: Mark Sheldon (Poole High School/Longfleet Youth FC)
2nd Place: Danny Aplin (The Marsh/Weymouth Cougars FC)
3rd Place: Mark Bailey (Lyme Regis FC)
For information on accessing Grass Pitch Maintenance Funding contact Kath Purnell (County Facilities & Investment Lead)) on 01202 688278 or email Kathryn.Purnell@dorsetfa.com