We recently chatted with MCC's Ground Superintendent Jeff Cards about his career at the Club, and his new role as COVID-19 Officer,
As the Ground Superintendent at Lord’s, describe a typical day at work for MCC?
One of the great things about this job is the variety in your workload. I’m not sure there is a typical day! There is certainly shift in emphasis, as you would expect, during the season. There is a great deal of preparatory work for the variety of matches we host at Lord’s each season. I will work closely with internal and external stakeholders (ECB, Middlesex CCC, Westminster Council and Blue-light services) to ensure the planning of matches and events is as thorough as possible in order to ensure we stage these occasions to the very highest of standards.
To be successful in this role, you have to ensure you forge strong working relationships across the Club. There is a collaborative approach to a great deal of the work my department carries out on a daily basis.
With your added role as COVID 19-Officer, how quickly did your day-to-day work change when the pandemic began?
The role evolved over time as we began to understand the full impact that the virus was going to have on the operation of the Ground. The workload really picked up significantly as the preparation for the return of cricket to Lord’s became a reality.
A remobilisation working group was set up to take on the various challenges that opening the Ground to the public and hosting cricket in a Covid-19 secure environment brings. The expertise of many from all departments within the Club meant we could successfully host a number of matches; the reduced season totalled just 11 days of cricket with five Vitality Blasts, the Bob Willis Trophy Final, and the Village Cup Final all played behind closed doors.
You are one of only a handful of people who live on site at Lord’s permanently. What’s it like having the Home of Cricket as your home, and especially during the lockdown?
In a word, weird! March is a time when the Ground is usually so busy with the Indoor Cricket Centre in full swing, huge numbers of visitors enjoying tours of the Ground, a variety of events taking place across our venues and preparations for the start of the new season being ramped up by the day. To see all of the activity come to an instant halt in mid-March was a real shock and impacted everyone. One of the only groups who were regularly on-site during lockdown were our security staff who responded excellently to the changing circumstances keeping Lord’s secure and safe during the period of inactivity.
From a personal perspective, outside of Joe Wicks PE sessions with my daughter, my exercise regime over the first few weeks of lockdown consisted of laps of the outfield thanks to the generosity of the Head Groundsman.
From complete Ground closure to staging matches behind closed doors, what were the main challenges in allowing cricket to return to Lord’s?
There were a significant number of new measures that staff and those involved with the staging of matches needed to comply with. I credit ECB and our colleagues at Middlesex for the support and guidance they gave us in ensuring Lord’s was ready for our first match on 29 August.
To limit the movement of people in the Ground during matches we set up a zone system. Maintaining the discipline of staying with your working/functional area whilst on site on match days was I know challenging for a number of people, but I would say that those who were in the Ground for matches responded magnificently to a very foreign way of working compared to what we have been used to in the past.
I was proud to be part of a team that worked so closely together in order to stage matches successfully and safely with a myriad of new measures in place.
Everyone is hoping that 2021 will see the return of fans to the Ground. When will you and the team start planning for this and what will be the first jobs to tackle?
That planning has already started. We will be keeping a close eye over the next few weeks and months on how sport across the board in the UK manages the hopeful return of spectators to stadia and venues. There are a number of operational considerations for us to work through, an obvious one being the impact that possible restrictions in capacity will have on our operation, especially in a year where we can open up our two new magnificent stands, Compton and Edrich. A good deal of what we will work on over the off-season is providing that level of confidence in our safety measures that spectators keen to return to Lord’s would expect considering the impact that Covid has had on all of us in our daily lives.