all-female grounds team
Arsenal's Tara Sandford (left) and Bobbie Murphy.

History to be made by all-female grounds team at North London derby

An all-female grounds team will prepare the pitch at Emirates Stadium for Arsenal vs Tottenham in the Women’s Super League on March 3. With more than 50,000 tickets already sold for the game, this achievement 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 Women’s Super League and Women in Football, both sponsored by Barclays, have collaborated with the Grounds Management Association (GMA), the leading membership organization representing grounds personnel in the UK, and Arsenal Football Club to help 13 female grounds professionals make history as the first all-female grounds team to prepare a Women’s Super League match.

The trailblazing group of women will take center stage, preparing the Emirates Stadium pitch ahead of the North London derby with the aim of encouraging young girls and boys to consider a career in grounds management, an industry in need of young talented recruits who are passionate about sport.

The growth of women’s sport over recent years, buoyed by the success of the Lionesses, has attracted the eyes of the sporting world. For sport to function smoothly, it’s essential that pitches and grass playing surfaces are well-maintained to ensure matches can take place and player safety is maximized. Despite an uplift of women playing sport across all levels, however, only 2% of the grounds management sector, which is responsible for maintaining the nation’s pitches, is female.

“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,” said Geoff Webb, CEO of GMA. “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 people to consider careers 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 said, “Being a part of the first all-women 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,” Sandford added. “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 team includes:

  • Alexia Doughty (apprentice groundsperson at Stratford Sports Club)
  • Beth Gibbs (groundsperson at Wellington School and GMA Young Board member)
  • 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 and GMA Young Board member)
  • Meg Lay (groundsperson at Lord’s, Marylebone Cricket Club and GMA Young Board member)
  • Phoebe Taylorson (apprentice groundperson at Middlesbrough Football Club)
  • Rachel Hunter-Worrall (groundperson at Queen Ethelburga’s School in York)
  • Tara Sandford (groundsperson at Arsenal Football Club)
  • Zibby Parker (part time groundsperson at Ipswich Town FC and Essex County Cricket Club)

“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,” said Nikki Doucet, CEO of the Barclays Women’s Super League and Barclays Women’s Championship. “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.”

Said Yvonne Harrison, CEO of Women in Football, “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.”

The match takes place on Sunday 3 March 2024 at Emirates Stadium and will be free to view on the BBC.

Article provided by GMA.