SAPCA Conference Report 2019

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Raising the standards for sports facility projects

We are the recognised trade association for the sports and play construction industry in the UK. All of our members go through a strict checking process:

  • Strict Admission Criteria
  • Standards of Construction
  • Code of Professional Conduct
  • Technical Mediation
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Building an Active Nation

The theme for this year’s SAPCA Conference, held at St George’s Park National Football Centre in Staffordshire, was “Building an Active Nation”.

After Andy Reed OBE, SAPCA Chairman had welcomed the assembled delegates our morning sessions were kicked into high gear by our keynote speaker, BBC Dragon, Piers Linney.

Piers explained the importance of having a business plan – and a plan “B”, that it is essential to have the right systems and processes in place and how businesses must put together a team that can do what is needed. Novel ways to finance business growth were highlighted and finally, the impact of technology. Piers also counselled that business managers should not be afraid to fail and not worry too much about what others thought of them.

Next up, Trudi Else of Sport England shared the results and vision of Sport England for their goal of getting the population more physically active.

Mark Pover delivered a fascinating presentation that showed the Football Association’s investments to date and the challenges that the association currently faces. The importance of 3G pitches to allow improvements needed in pitch availability was made clear.

After an excellent lunch, the afternoon programme started with Michelle Leavesley demonstrating how missteps in handling online threats to a company reputation can be disastrous for the company concerned, and how these can best be managed.

Each year the Conference includes a Tennis Court Forum that has always proved to be popular. This year’s forum was no exception and topics covered included the LTA’s funding strategy and the tennis court inspection programme (part of SAPCA’s Quality System).

Jamie Leeson of Fields in Trust explained how FIT works to prevent green spaces being lost to communities, and Ron Harrison of the Gloucestershire Playing Fields Association showed how an active nation can be delivered at grassroots level.

Dr Colin Young of Ten Cate Grass and SAPCA Director Neil McHugh threw light on the role of standards in improving sports pitches and how SAPCA was driving up quality through the pitch inspections within SAPCA’s Quality System.

There were plenty of questions for Sports Labs’ David Dickinson, after he showed how the tendering process can lead to “a race to the bottom” for quality. Innovation is to be encouraged. In David’s view, consultants are vital to quality improvement and that achieving quality is everyone’s responsibility.

St George’s Park Head Groundsman, Scott Brooks gave a very well-received talk on the benefits of technology and innovation in the delivery of top-class facilities at the National Football Centre.

The programme concluded with Chris Roberts of David Morley Architects demonstrating the importance of good design as a key to the building of an active nation.

Chris Roberts of David Morley Architects receives the winner’s certificate and prize from SAPCA Chairman, Andy Reed

Annual Dinner

The host for our Annual Dinner this year was BBC football sports presenter Mark Clemmit. A great time was had by all with comedic entertainment provided by Alfie Moore.

SAPCA Awards

The winner of the SAPCA Award 2018 was David Morley Architects for the design and delivery of a state-of-the art Sports Hub for The University of Warwick. You can read more about the SAPCA Awards [here].

SAPCA Award for Achievement

Tom Ralph, SAPCA Vice-Chairman received the SAPCA Award for Achievement at this year’s event.


The official sponsors of our event were Halliday Lighting Ltd and Replay Maintenance Ltd. We are indebted to them for their generous support.

Thanks also to physical activity facilities for their support of the Conference Lunch, and to Tennis Threads magazine for supporting The Tennis Court Forum.

Going on Tour

Delegates to the Conference were also given the opportunity to take a special tour of the indoor and outdoor pitches at St George’s Park with Head Groundsman Scott Brooks, including a behind the scenes look at the other training facilities used by England’s 28 national teams. Within the tour there was a valuable Q&A session, when members were able to quiz Scott about aspects of the maintenance and use of the Centre.