All-female grounds team make history at WSL North London Derby

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An all-female grounds team from various industries will make history as they prepare the pitch at Emirates Stadium for Arsenal’s Barclays Women’s Super League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday 3 March.

With over 50,000 tickets already sold for the game, this landmark moment will mark a significant milestone for women’s sport and the role of women in making sport possible.

In the months leading up to the match, the Barclays Women’s Super League and Women in Football have collaborated with the Grounds Management Association [GMA] and Arsenal Football Club to help 13 grounds professionals become the first all-female grounds team to work across a Barclays Women’s Super League game.

The trailblazing group of women will take centre stage, honing Emirates Stadium’s pitch ahead of March’s North London derby, with two of the group – Arsenal ground staff Bobbie Murphy and Tara Sandford – kicking off proceedings by working the club’s Premier League fixture against Newcastle United on Saturday 24 February.

For the sport to function smoothly, it is essential that pitches and grass playing surfaces are well-maintained to ensure matches can take place and player safety is maximised.

Despite an uplift of women playing sport across all levels, only 2% of the grounds management sector, which is responsible for maintaining the nation’s pitches, is female.

With Arsenal providing the stage, the Barclays Women’s Super League, GMA and Women in Football will be helping the 13 professionals prepare the pitch for the match, in turn shining a spotlight on the vital contribution of women to sport, with the aim of encouraging more to consider roles in grounds management.

The 13 women involved come from different venues across a variety of sporting and educational facilities and will be led by Tara Sandford, Groundsperson at Arsenal Football Club, who when reflecting on the initiative, said: “Being a part of the first all-female grounds team to prepare a Barclays Women’s Super League match has been hugely exciting for me on both a personal and professional level.

“The consistent level of support we have seen for our women’s team this season shows how much the game continues to grow, and it’s important that we harness this to encourage more girls to pursue a career in football.

“I hope our all-female grounds team showcases the different opportunities that exist within football and inspires more women to get into the game.”

The group will consist of:

Alexia Doughty (Apprentice Groundsperson at Stratford Sports Club)
Beth Gibbs (Groundsperson at Wellington School)
Bobbie Murphy (Apprentice Groundsperson at Arsenal Football Club)
Carlie Lambert (Apprentice Groundsperson for Worcestershire County Cricket Club)
Emily Geach (Volunteer Groundsperson at Boconnoc Cricket Club and Tormarton Cricket Club)
Georgie Grimes (Groundsperson for The FA at St George’s Park)
Jasmine Nicholls (Groundsperson for Yorkshire County Cricket Club)
Liddy Ford (Groundsperson for The FA at St George’s Park)
Meg Lay (Groundsperson at Lord’s, Marylebone Cricket Club)
Phoebe Taylorson (Apprentice Groundsperson at Middlesbrough Football Club)
Rachel Hunter-Worrall (Groundsperson at Queen Ethelburga’s School in York)
Zibby Parker (Part time Groundsperson at Ipswich Town FC and Essex County Cricket Club)

With the team’s work marking an important moment for women’s sport, and women more widely, Nikki Doucet – Chief Executive Officer of the Barclays Women’s Super League and Barclays Women’s Championship, said: “The Women’s Professional Game and Football Association are very proud to be a part of this showcase event, bringing some of the brightest talents working within our industry and beyond deservedly to the fore.

“There are so many incredible women working not only throughout football, but across many other industries too, and it is amazing that we have been able to bring 13 of the country’s most highly rated female ground staff together to play such a crucial role for a tentpole fixture in our calendar.”

Geoff Webb, CEO of the Grounds Management Association – the leading membership organisation representing grounds personnel in the UK – added: “Grounds staff are essential in making sport possible, and, without them, we simply wouldn’t have the pitches we need for our nation’s enjoyment of sport.

“Research shows that women make up a small percentage of the number of grounds staff we have working in the sector and so, if we want to provide more pitches to keep up with the increased demand for grass playing surfaces, we need more women to enter the sector.

“We’re delighted to see some exceptional examples of women working in the sector celebrated at a such an important fixture in the Barclays Women’s Super League calendar and we hope their example encourages more women and young girls to consider careers in grounds management.”

With the event being a landmark moment for women’s sport, and taking place just ahead of International Women’s Day, Yvonne Harrison, CEO of Women in Football, said:

“Football couldn’t exist without a pitch to play on, and the game as we know and love it depends on the vital contributions made by women in every area – from grounds management to coaching, refereeing, player care and representation, media, HR, marketing, finance and more.

“So today and every day, let’s celebrate the female workforce in football and right across our sporting ecosystem, starting right here with the 13 talented grounds people laying the foundations for a massive fixture in the Barclays Women’s Super League.”

The match takes place on Sunday 3 March 2024 at Emirates Stadium, KO 12.30pm, and will be broadcast live on BBC One.

With thanks to the FA

Lead photo shows Arsenal’s Tara Sandford and Bobbie Murphy

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