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Update for members and Australian turf industry - 26th March

Friday 27, Mar 2020

An update for Australian Sports Turf Managers Association members and the Australian Turf Industry - 26th March, 2020


Without doubt, the last few weeks have been a time of great uncertainty for many in the industry.  We are all concerned about what the evolving situation relating to COVID-19 means for our health, our livelihoods, roles and our communities, both in the short and long term.  

I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the many calls received over recent days, and for those I have not yet had an opportunity to get back to, please know that I will.  I will be in touch as soon as I am able in coming days, as I try to work my way through the many critical individual and industry issues; however I will respond to every call. 

As an Association, we trying to maintain a consistent approach to updates and communication for the industry as we work through information, advice and requirements across each State, requirements that seem to change hourly.  

Many of these updates have been conveyed to relevant individuals, States that are impacted, or more broadly through available platforms including the Association website and Social Media.  

Recent efforts have been broadly a balance of updates for facilities and individual situations, with many members who have faced a level of uncertainty or changes in operations in the face of a challenge we have not been through before.  

I would like to take this opportunity to keep you all updated on more recent activities and attempts to address an area of growing uncertainty for turf managers and partners.  That is the impacts on staff, positions and maintenance in the case of potential further restrictions on businesses and facilities.

Over the last 24 hours, our focus and priorities have shifted toward advocacy efforts; on informing governments, national sporting organisations and legislators of the potential impacts and needs of our Members and the turf management industry.  Specifically, we have expressed grave concern about the survival of many of our sporting facilities and golf courses should the country move to Alert Level 4 as New Zealand has announced.
In the case of golf, such a move to a complete lock out of maintenance operations has major consequences for the industry. An alert level 4 means that all maintenance operations at facilities, venues and golf clubs must cease, including courses, practice facilities, clubhouses, pro shops bar, function and catering facilities must close.
Should golf and sporting facilities not be maintained to at least a basic standard over a period, it is conservatively estimated that during such a lockdown, up to $5 billion worth of sporting assets Australia-wide will be at significant risk within a week. 

The task of repatriating turf to current conditions may not be achievable nor affordable for the greater number of clubs and councils.
We are appealing to government that in the event of a full lockdown, exemptions be provided to allow staff at turf facilities (including stadiums, golf courses, racing, bowls, lawn tennis and others) to tend to the maintenance of the course and/or surfaces during the lockdown period. 

It is our position that it is vital that turf managers be provided this exemption as once greens & playing surface infrastructure have rapidly declined, due to the costs associated and time requirements to repatriate facilities, too many facilities, clubs and courses around the country will be forced to close their doors for good.
Whilst the actual maintenance requirements will differ from one facility to another, and region to another based on climate, the outcome will be the same across the country if basic turf maintenance is not permitted. The time required to return to a functional, safe and playable facility will be significantly reduced with the implementation of controlled essential maintenance practices.

We completely understand that the government is doing what they can to save lives and we have reassured the various ministers we are in discussions with, that we are doing all we can to play our part. 

We stand ready to work with Sport Australia, NSO’s (including Golf Australia), State Sporting Organisations and government authorities to ensure that all restrictions are in place, and should an exemption on turf maintenance activity be granted, we will do everything we can to ensure this is done in a controlled environment that is healthy and safe for Sports Turf Managers and the community.

We will continue to keep members update on the progress of these discussions, and potential announcements as they come to hand.  In addition, we will continue to provide State Associations any assistance required to support their members and the industry as we move through a time of great uncertainty. 

The team at the Association have moved to working remotely as of late this week, however we remain contactable through the normal office numbers, mobiles and email. 

In the meantime, please look after yourselves, families, each other, and continue to follow advice provided by health authorities.

Mark Unwin
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Sports Turf Managers Association