Football pitch marked out at palace
Thursday 19th September 2013, 2:31PM BST.
Buckingham Palace’s garden has been marked out with a football pitch in preparation for the first official match to be staged at the Queen’s home.
Two of England’s oldest amateur clubs will play on the special ground, which will be mowed with criss-cross stripes like Wembley, as part of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
The players may also find themselves running across patches of camomile as the garden features the plant – a remnant of a previous era.
The Queen gave her permission for the match next month and Wembley Stadium grounds manager Tony Stones is working with the royal household gardeners, led by Mark Lane, to create a pitch in the 39-acre garden.
Mr Lane, the palace’s gardens manager, said: “When I first heard about it I thought it was quite an exciting prospect, this is something we’ve never hosted before. There’s been a boxing match back in the mid-1950s but a football match is quite a unique opportunity to use the garden for a different event.”
The lawn has already been seeded in parts to repair wear and tear following a busy summer of activities from garden parties to staging the Coronation Festival.
And as Mr Stones’s team began marking out the 100-metre by 60-metre pitch with tape measures and string, palace gardeners pumped air under pressure into a compacted area in the middle to force the ground back up – a normal practice at major grounds.
The Wembley grounds manager said: “This will be fine to play football on, it’s in good shape.
“We’re quite busy back at the stadium so we’re getting it all marked out so when we come on the day we can just mark it out again.”
Mr Stones, 37, from Barnsley, said his team remained focused whatever the event: “We treat every game the same so everything gets 100% care, whether it’s a company day, a game at Buckingham Palace or the Champions League final.”
The Duke of Cambridge, president of the FA, helped arrange the Southern Amateur League fixture on October 7 between Civil Service FC and Polytechnic FC, both based in Chiswick, west London.
Civil Service FC is the sole surviving club from the 11 clubs who founded the FA in the Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, in London in 1863 and later drafted the 13 original laws of association football. Polytechnic FC was formed in 1875.
William will host the event and also present medals to 150 grassroots volunteers in recognition of their dedication to the sport. The match is being held in tribute to their commitment.
The recipients were chosen for their outstanding contribution to football including helping to develop the women’s game, providing opportunities for disabled players and refereeing.
Mr Stones added: “It’s an honour to be here but it’s not about us, it’s about the volunteers that are getting recognised on the day.”
The palace grass is normally cut to a height of 19 millimetres but the Wembley grounds manager said it will be increased to 26mm “to give the lawn some protection”.
Palace gardeners will mow the pitch three times a week, as regular cutting improves the lawn, and a criss-cross pattern will be created in the turf – mirroring Wembley.
The final cut before the pitch is marked out will be carried out 24 hours before the players stage their match.
The turf is a mixture of grasses – rye, bents and fescues – and will be given a dose of fertiliser this week to increase its green colour and this will be repeated next week.
Mr Lane, who has been in his post for just over 20 years, said the lawn also contained remnants of a plant that would have originally been found in the area centuries ago.
He said: “We have some patches of camomile in the lawn which are remnants from a previous era. It’s a native of Middlesex so it would have been in the ground here since the garden was created.”
He added: “One of the memories that Princess Margaret had all those years ago as a youngster was walking among all of the garden party guests and the smell would come up from the camomile.”