Behind the Scenes | Returning to Scotstoun
“It requires a bit of creative thinking, to be honest – you’re thinking about things you never thought you’d have to think about.”
A sentiment with which people across Scotland, the UK and the world can no doubt relate, considering every minute detail has become a part of everyday life in recent weeks for Stephanie Karvelis. As Glasgow Warriors’ Operations Manager, getting Scotstoun ship-shape and ready for the return of the club’s senior squad has been top of her list of priorities.
“We need to ensure that the venue is compliant with all relevant government guidance in relation to COVID-19,” Karvelis explained.
“It’s a constantly moving landscape. Moving into phase two of the return to rugby plan, the squad’s training requirements shift and so therefore the operational requirements change as well. The biggest thing for us is getting a facility that’s been shut down for four months back ready for us to use it. Creating a bio-safe bubble to minimise the risk of any sort of infection is key.
“Things like building socially-distanced gyms, creating a one way system at the stadium, making sure there’s enough hand sanitising points and welfare provision – these are all key. So you’re thinking ‘ok, we need to make a gym where the bays are two metres apart from each other’. Ok – where do we do that, and how do we do that? It’s about understanding what’s required and who can help us to meet those requirements.”
It's not just the off-field preparations that have been in full swing in anticipation of the squad’s return. Since it’s installation in 2016 Scotstoun’s artificial pitch has been a cornerstone of Glasgow Warriors training, until COVID-19 brought a halt to its daily usage in mid-March.
“This will have been the longest it hasn’t been used,” the club’s Senior Groundsman Paddy Ferrie.
“That’s never a bad thing with these surfaces, though, considering the number of hours it’s used through the calendar year.
“It’s easier to deal with than a grass pitch as its doesn’t grow, but still requires some intensive maintenance to get it to the desired standard we have here.
“The priority is keeping the main pitch and the rear grass pitch as safe and as sanitised as possible for each user, so we’re following government and Scottish Rugby guidelines for this and disinfecting the 3G surface when required after training resumes.”
With rugby’s return inching ever closer, Danny Wilson and his playing group will return to Scotstoun on Monday in the knowledge that preparations for next month’s double-header with Edinburgh will be in as safe an environment as possible. With that guarantee comes an extra level of preparation for Karvelis, Ferrie and the rest of the off-field team, however.
“The documentation is intense!” laughed Karvelis.
“Quite rightly, you need to demonstrate you’re doing everything in line with the government guidance as well as adhering to what the league are stipulating. It’s a lot of reading and applying those to our specific situation, and then making sure everyone has signed off on everything.
In the summer of 2016 a 4G pitch was installed at Scotstoun. From Monday, we'll be back training on that award-winning pitch as we get ready to take on @EdinburghRugby next month.#WhateverItTakes
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) July 23, 2020
“The biggest thing for me has been things like ‘how many hand sanitiser units do I need to order’ and ‘how often do I need to replenish them’. You’re sat there working out how often people should sanitise their hands, the amount that the stations dispense – that’s the level of detail we’re working at. It’s bizarre, to be honest! You never would have thought that you’d have to do this sort of thing, but it’s all about making sure the environment is as safe as possible for everyone.”
The detail in Ferrie’s work is no different.
“The grass pitch was waist-high in some areas having only been cut once since early March, so that’s been a challenge,” he explained.
“We’ve brought in a certain type of mower that allows us to cut at higher heights and slowly bring the heights down. It also collects the grass for us, which is a big help.
“For the 3G surface, it’s a case of clearing any litter that’s lying around and using our tractor mounted rake to de-compact any crumb that may have become firm over the last few months. That’s then flowed by a brush for the aesthetic side of things, and lastly the pitch will be disinfected prior to the team starting back training.”
The team effort doesn’t just stop with the in-house Glasgow Warriors staff, however. From the green light being given for the return to voluntary fitness sessions, everyone has been playing their part in getting the return to rugby journey underway.
“Scottish Rugby have been unbelievably helpful,” said Karvelis.
“All the ground-work for the documentation and preparation for BT Murrayfield was there for us to learn from, and the operational team across the organisation has been an invaluable source of knowledge in helping us to transfer everything knowledge-wise across to Scotstoun.”
So, as the players return to Scotstoun and the first whistle at next month’s first meeting with Edinburgh draws closer, the mantra remains the same.
On-field, off-field and behind the scenes – Whatever It Takes.