The Gazette

Breaking as Boro’s caring for


- By CRAIG JOHNS @craig_johns

WHEN you think of a typical football grounds person there is an obvious stereotype.

In fact, that stereotype makes that first sentence redundant because the reality is the majority of us will immediatel­y think ‘groundsman’ and likely picture a middle-aged male.

There’s a reason that is a common perception and it’s because it’s a reality. Over 40% of the current employees in the sector are men over the age of 50. And with no influx of new recruits, there is a concern at the GMA (Grounds Management Associatio­n) – the not-for-profit organisati­on which represents sports grounds staff from across the UK – that it could result in a significan­t employment gap within the next five to ten years, which could have a hugely detrimenta­l impact on the sport we love.

The GMA are taking steps to encourage both younger and more diverse applicants to consider a profession in grounds management, and Middlesbro­ugh have responded, offering 17-yearold Phoebe Taylorson an apprentice­ship that she started last June.

She is Boro’s first-ever female grounds person. But as well as being a female in a male-dominated profession, Phoebe also has a hearing disability, and yet has refused to let age, gender or disability be a barrier to doing a job that she loves.

“I must admit, before getting the job I did think that if it came down to two candidates who were equal, one male and one female, the male would get picked because people would assume the male would be naturally stronger,” she tells The Gazette as she sits down in a Riverside suite to take a hardearned break from the day’s treatment of the pitch.

“But my attitude was, give it a go and do the best I can, and if they say no for that reason, that’s not my fault that’s them missing out. But I did get the job and everyone I work with is great. It’s a real family spirit amongst us. It never feels like anyone treats me differentl­y, I just feel like I’m one of the team.”

The role was perfect for Phoebe. She’s a lifelong Boro fan who had a season card and attended matches with her dad for many years before landing the role at the club. A keen footballer herself and very much an active and outdoors person, her stint in sixth form studying Law, Spanish and Politics, while proof of the intelligen­ce she has, just wasn’t for her.

“I was in sixth form and I just found it boring,” she admits with a smile. “I was a bit lost really and didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I was looking for a way out and football has been something I’ve always loved. I wanted to do something hands-on and preferably outdoors too. So when you put the two together, this role was the perfect solution to the problem!

“I was speaking with tutors at the sixth form and they were pushing me in the direction of football. So I just searched online for careers in football and grounds person came up. Around the time I’d been looking at things like horticultu­re and National Trust parks and things like that anyway because I’d always wanted to work outdoors.

“I first applied for a job at St George’s Park [England’s base in the Midlands] and they said I was a good applicant, but they didn’t want me moving that far away. Then this came up and thankfully I made it through and got the role.

“It was the perfect opportunit­y and it’s been really good so far. It’s been hard, but I was expecting that. It’s a good kind of challengin­g, as opposed to, ‘I hate this, and I want to leave.’”

You might find yourself asking why does it matter? Is it really that important to protect the future of the profes

It’s a real family spirit amongst us. It never feels like anyone treats me differentl­y, I just feel like I’m one of

the team

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