Rugby players and footballers get a lot of recognition, but what about the dedicated volunteers who work behind the scenes to ensure the pitch is in perfect condition?
The Friday Club is made up of retired folk who have a connection with Chorley Panthers RLFC, which is a junior ‘not for profit’ rugby league club providing a facility for 12 teams.
They work together to maintain the grounds at Chisnall Lane playing fields, in Coppull.
The group was set up three years ago following an upgrade of the facilities and the eight members have been working to sustain the pitch ever since.
Peter Bridge, 53, was the chairman of the football club for 13 years and coached the under 13s.
He is now the Friday Club ground staff co-ordinator.
He says: “A few years ago we got a lottery grant, together with our club fund-raising and Chorley Council and we spent more than £4,000 on the facility and pitch drainage.
“After spending such a vast amount of money on the pitches, the club was then presented with the problem of sustaining this excellent playing area and it was at this point that the Friday Club was formed.
“The eight volunteers attend every Friday and prepare the pitches ready for the weekend.
“This includes cutting the grass, marking the lines, fertilising, strimming and have a general tidy up. In addition, we also clean the changing rooms and clubhouse.
“The servicing is carried out by Eddie Oxley, 71, who has 50 years of experience in the engineering industry.
“We draw on the knowledge from within the club, including two of the players’ parents who have expertise in the field: Bill Morris, who owns Bill Morris Grounds and Garden Machinery, in Standish, and Mark Beardsworth, of RHF Turf Growers, in Euxton.
“We regularly attend seminars, presentations and workshops facilitated by the Rugby Football League and Institute of Groundsmanship.
“We have a limited budget. However, the club committee appreciates the importance of maintaining our excellent pitches and is very supportive.
“Last year we spent approximately £3,500 on ground maintenance. We have saved the club in excess of £50,000 that would have been paid for a ground maintenance fee.”
All the members have family members who play or have once been part of Chorley Panthers.
Peter’s two sons, Thomas, 25, and Alex, 21, had played at the club since the age of six. They have now left.
He adds: “There is a real family connection here as our children or grandchildren play or have played at the club.
“The volunteers get a lot of satisfaction out of doing this and seeing their loved ones make use of the pitches they have maintained.”
As well as serving the football club, the group also acts as a social arena for retired workers and helps keep them active.
Peter, a retired police officer, adds: “With pensioners living longer it is important to keep them healthy and occupied, especially as figures suggest there is a loneliness epidemic. Around 10 per cent of pensioners feel lonely and 56 per cent don’t share this feeling with their family.
“So this is a great way of socialising and getting active.
“We have other social activities, such as a lunchtime quiz, Christmas lunches and one of the wives bakes us cakes most Fridays.”
The Friday Club’s work has earned them a nomination for the Institute of Groundsmanship Industry Awards in the Grassroots Sports Grounds Team of the Year category.
The winner will be announced in November.
Peter adds: “We are grateful to be allowed to nominate this remarkable team of volunteers.”