James Kimmings sat down with Arsenal’s first ever female groundskeeper, Tara Sandford to discuss the growing need to diminish gender stereotypes within the industry.
How does it feel to be working for the club that you have supported throughout your life? Does this give you motivation?
Yes it does. It is still surreal for me that I get to work here! I have supported Arsenal most of my life and I feel lucky to be in and around the club, seeing the players and working on the pitches.
In terms of diversity, being a woman in a male-dominated industry, how have you found this?
I guess it’s strange being the only female in the team, but I don’t find it uncomfortable or challenging. In my previous role, I worked for seven years as a gardener for the council, so I was used to a male environment.
In your opinion, why should more women consider a turfcare career?
It is a rewarding job and I like that you get to be alongside nature. I worked in an office for a short time, but it wasn’t for me! If you want to do a certain job, even if it’s a male-dominated environment, just go for it.
Have you found any pressures working for a Premier League team? Does it add an extra layer of motivation?
Yes, absolutely. The standards are so high, but it makes me want to do better and learn more. I have developed both personally and professionally during my time here.
Can you describe how you got into this role? How difficult was the application process?
Surprisingly it wasn’t very difficult; I was looking online and this position popped up. Initially, it was a three-month temporary contract to cover someone on leave. However, after just a week they asked if I would stay on … it wasn’t something I could say no to!
Explain some of the tasks and jobs that you undertake daily, in and around the club.
We obviously do a lot of grass cutting and use a Turf Tank for marking out the pitches, plus we have renovated five of the training ground pitches so far. I went from going out and leisurely cutting grass at the council, to needing to be on the ball all the time here. It’s nice that I get much more variety.
Have you felt any pressure coming into Arsenal as the first female groundsperson?
I think previously they have had two female interns… I am just the first full-time female groundsperson. The pressure comes from proving to myself that I can do the job. It isn’t something that I find difficult – if you work hard and do the job properly, then I don’t think it has anything to do with gender.
What advice would you give to other young women considering a turfcare position?
Whatever job you are interested in, just work hard to reach that goal. Never let anyone say, ‘You can’t do it’. Go for it and enjoy what you’re doing.
What is it like managing the pitches? Do the players and coaches interact and appreciate the work that goes in behind the scenes?
The coaches and players are nice and it’s a tight group. It makes you feel like your part of the club and the team. It’s nice when they offer a thank you because a lot of the jobs do take time and a lot of effort. When the players do well, they are under pressure, but we feel that as well. We want to try and make their job easier by delivering a good standard.
Article by James Kimmings