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Crystal Palace head groundsman: 'We make sure we do everything for the supporters, whatever the weather'


LAST Saturday's match against Bolton Wanderers may have been a goalless draw, but for some of the staff at Selhurst Park prior to the match, they certainly would have had a winning feeling inside them.

A number of games were postponed because of heavy snowfall around the country, and with the cold weather refusing to go away, Palace fans may have feared the worst ahead of the game.

But a strong team assembled by the club's head groundsman Mark Perrin made sure that was not the case, as up to 20 people got stuck in to make sure Selhurst Park was in the right shape.

"There are five groundsmen, including myself, and the maintenance team and general ground staff also helped out, so there was probably at least dozen of us on the Friday," Perrin told Advertiser Sport.

"We worked until 7pm, and on the Saturday we managed to utilise some of the matchday staff from 8am.

"We had already started an hour before, so we had an extra 20 bodies helping on the ground, which was pretty good.

"The snow arrived right on cue last Friday, but we knew there was a certain amount we could clear fairly quickly.

"It was bit soul-destroying as the snow kept falling pretty heavily, but our thinking was to just clear the original snow at least so we didn't have so much to do on the Saturday morning."

Perrin admitted he wasn't worried too much about the game being called off and revealed it was vital they made a start the day before.

"I was reasonably confident the game against Bolton would have gone ahead," he said.

"We've dealt with similar situations before and it was all down to the amount of snow we got.

"If we got six inches of snow on the Friday, we would not have been able to clear it in that amount of time before the game.

"Another inch had fallen overnight, but we were able to clear it by 11am. Even though it's worrying when snow falls, we've definitely had worse at Selhurst."

Meanwhile, the first team management were aware of events in SE25 constantly, while Perrin says all efforts were, and always are, made around the stadium for supporters to get to their seats.

"Ian Holloway and Keith Millen were kept informed of the situation and it's important you keep that line of communication going," he said.

"If they think the game might be off, their heads might not be in the right place or something. And then suddenly if it's on, it could be a shock.

"The referee did arrive early and had a look at 9am, but he was happy with what we'd done and we were always in control.

"If he had turned up at that time with more snow, he may have been a bit worried but we had done half of it already.

"The stadium team that worked late on Friday and early Saturday morning were fantastic and we nearly ran out of snow shovels.

"But we'll also do outside the ground for the fans and the car park area. Sometimes, we'll even do the immediate roads leading up to Selhurst Park if they haven't been done.

"We make sure we do everything we can for the supporters, whatever the weather."

However, Perrin, who has been working at Palace for eight years, says there has been one particular time while at the club when their hard work had been for nothing.

"I've been at the club since 2005 and the worst scenario for us is when you do all that work to either clear snow or drain the pitch, then the game gets called off," he said.

"I would say the Bristol City game two years ago is a good example of that. We even had people working through the night that week.

"We were glad it had been all done by the Friday, but the next day we were gutted."

So what does the future hold for sport venues fighting snow and other bad weather? Perrin admitted it was a tough question to answer, but says having undersoil heating and pitch covers would be a minimum.

"It's more difficult these days as players and managers are less likely to play in marginal conditions as opposed to maybe 15 years ago or more," he said.

"Even referees sometimes want to call it off rather than it going ahead due to health and safety.

"Undersoil heating and pitch covers can certainly keep the cold weather out if you get significant snowfall, but unless that's coordinated and with the local councils as well, these situations today are always going to keep coming up with the snow."

Crystal Palace head groundsman: 'We make sure we do everything for the supporters, whatever the weather'

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