If you know your football, you’ll no doubt be aware of Norwich City FC’s Finnish connection. But while Teemu Pukki continues to lead the line for club and country, he’s not the only Finnish import making a big impact with the Canaries.
In summer 2019, Avant launched a partnership with Norwich City that included the use of an Avant 745 multifunctional loader at the club’s Colney training headquarters. We caught up with Gary Kemp, the club’s Head Groundsman, and Colney Grounds Supervisor James Randell, to find out how the Finnish machine is helping them to hit their own grounds maintenance targets.
Gary, who is a previous winner of the Championship Groundsman of the Year award, has been very impressed with the versatility and functionality of the Avant machine: “The Avant 745 has been a real game-changer for us. It’s a heavy machine, but we had it fitted with turf tyres so it can travel across our pitches without causing any damage. We have a 4-in-1 bucket attachment for general maintenance, and also pallet forks. The pallet forks have proved incredibly useful for unloading shipments; whether it’s bags of sand and fertiliser, or boxes of food and drink, there are always lorries coming in and out of the site delivering things. The forks are also brilliant for moving the portable dugouts and goals from pitch to pitch, and it’s so easy to switch between the two attachments; it only takes a matter of seconds.”
Gary Kemp, the club’s Head Groundsman, and Colney Grounds Supervisor James Randell (on the left) keeping the surfaces ready both for the men's team and academy.
It’s an absolutely wonderful piece of kit. We used to have a tractor down here, but we stopped using it as soon as we got the Avant. It’s remarkably agile for its size and can get into the smallest of spaces; you just hop in, and away you go." - James Randell
Gary is also excited about the future benefits that the Avant 745 may bring to his team. “I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of what the machine is capable of, and we’re looking into what other attachments might be useful for us in future. The club is in the process of building us a new grounds store at the training ground, which will enable us to buy our maintenance products in bulk – this will make the Avant vehicle even more vital. The amount of time and physical labour it has saved us is incredible.”
James Randell, the Grounds Supervisor at the club’s Colney training centre, agrees: “It’s an absolutely wonderful piece of kit. We used to have a tractor down here, but we stopped using it as soon as we got the Avant. It’s remarkably agile for its size and can get into the smallest of spaces; you just hop in, and away you go.” And how has the reliability been? “It’s been great,” James enthuses. “It hasn’t let us down once. It’s been back to Avant once for its routine service, and we really missed it for the couple of days it was away.”
The artificial turf maintenance brush attachment does a brilliant job of standing the fibres back up and redistributing the rubber crumb evenly. The weekly maintenance run is so quick and efficient with the Avant.” - Chris King
Meanwhile, Avant has also immersed itself in the club’s charity activities by donating one of its all-electric e6 loaders to The Nest, the brand-new purpose-built facility belonging to the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation. Chris King, Lead Grounds Person at Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, is a big fan of the e6.
“We’ve only had it for a few months, but already it’s proven to be indispensable for the upkeep of our brand-new full-size 3G pitch,” says Chris. “The artificial turf maintenance brush attachment does a brilliant job of standing the fibres back up and redistributing the rubber crumb evenly. The weekly maintenance run is so quick and efficient with the Avant.”
And what are the specific benefits of electric power? “It’s definitely the way forward,” Chris asserts. “Once our new building opens early in 2021 there will be all kinds of meetings and classes going on, so it’s a massive advantage to have an electric machine that generates hardly any noise. On top of that, you’ve got the environmental benefits; you could even use it indoors because it’s so quiet, and it doesn’t emit any fumes. And, of course, the maintenance time and cost will be lower as there’s no combustion engine and fewer moving parts.”
On top of its benefits in artificial turf maintenance, the Avant e6 is also put to use around the yard, like its diesel-powered sister at the Colney training centre. “It’s so quick and versatile for shifting things around, whether I’m using the 4-in-1 bucket attachment or the pallet forks; it’s really nimble and adaptable. And, looking through the catalogue, it’s amazing how many more things it could do. Right away, I can see that it’d be great to have a leaf collector attachment and a trailer, as currently we have to rake up the leaves the old-fashioned way, which consumes an awful lot of time and energy.”
In a highly unusual move, representatives from Norwich City Football Club also agreed to travel to the company’s global headquarters in Ylöjärvi, Finland, to find out more about the manufacture of the vehicles and learn about the company’s history and green credentials. Sam Jeffery, the club’s Head of Commercial Operations, was hugely impressed by what he saw. “We were granted special dispensation by the embassy to visit the facility,” says Sam, “and we were given a guided tour of the production line and the site by the son of the company’s founder. We also had the opportunity to put the machines through their paces, which was a huge amount of fun. Norwich City Football Club is delighted to be in partnership with Avant; they’re so committed to our region, and ideally aligned with the club’s community and environmental aims.”
Raimo Ala-Korpi, Managing Director of Avant Tecno UK, said: “At Avant we believe in the traditional Finnish principle that it’s vitally important to be involved in your local communities and to support the local economy, so partnering with Norwich City FC was a natural fit. We have also appointed Norwich City Community Sports Foundation as our charity of the year for 2020-21. The Canaries are the epitome of a community club, so working with them was a real win-win situation. Avant loaders are the number-one sustainable choice for sports facilities management, and we look forward to exploring more opportunities for collaboration with the club as our relationship develops.”