GTOTY Ken Thorpe May 2024 1

Needham Market win Step 3-6 competition

NEEDHAM Market have won the Suffolk FA Grounds Team of the Year for NLS Clubs.

NEEDHAM Market FC are the inaugural winners of the Suffolk FA Grounds Team of the Year for National League System Clubs sponsored by Jacobsen Ltd.

Groundman Ken Thorpe (pictured above) was adjudged the winner of the five clubs who entered the competition after they were visited by the Judging Panel on Friday.

He pipped Kevin Able of Framlingham Town FC to the title, with Paul Arnold of Bury Town FC in third place.

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Ken Able of Framlingham Town FC, who was the runner-up.

Needham Market will win £1,000, Framlingham Town £750 and Bury Town £500. All three groundsmen will also be invited to the Suffolk FA Awards Ceremony later in the year.

The prize money, in the form of vouchers, will be to spend on grounds equipment.

Merv Bignell and Martin Hawes of Hadleigh United FC and Steve Byford and Tony Robinson, the joint groundsmen at Ipswich Wanderers FC, also entered the competition.

GTOTY Paul Arnold May 2024 1.JPG

Paul Arnold of Bury Town FC, who placed third.

The competition, organised by Suffolk FA, had previously only been open to clubs playing outside the NLS system.

However, due to the generous sponsorship of Jacobsen Ltd, the world-wide renowned turf care specialists who are based in Suffolk, this year’s competition was extended to include a separate category for NLS clubs.

Ken Thorpe, who will be 70 in September and has worked on the ground since Needham Market moved to Bloomfields in 1996, was delighted to learn of the club’s success.

He said: “It’s fantastic to win this competition in its inaugural year and caps off a wonderful season for the club after winning both the Southern League Premier Central Division and the Suffolk Premier Cup.”

GTOTY Merv Bignell & Martin Hawes May 2024 1.JPG

Merv Bignell (left) and Martin Hawes (right) who are joint groundsmen at Hadleigh United FC.

The Judging Panel comprised of the following:


Phil Kime - Grounds Management Association Regional Pitch Advisor

Sam Newbould - Ipswich Town Senior Groundsman

Adrian Kersey - Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd Area Manager representing competition sponsors Jacobsen Ltd

Tim Parker - Parkers Pitches Consultant

Matt Stebbings - Suffolk FA Football Development Manager


Phil Kime said: “I never fail to be amazed by the dedication of volunteer ground staff. There is some great work going on and hopefully this is a chance for that work to be recognised.”

Sam Newbould said: “The standard of the pitches on display were very impressive and a credit to the volunteers who work on them.”

Adrian Kersey said: “At the end of a really horrendously tough year for weather, it was great to see so many really good quality pitches produced by their enthusiastic volunteers.”

GTOTY Steve Byford May 2024 1.JPG

Steve Byford, who is joint groundsman with Tony Robinson at Ipswich Wanderers FC.

Tim Parker said: “I was impressed with all the grounds. The volunteer input and limited budgets in all cases deserve high praise for the quality of surfaces, especially given the wettest winter on record.”

Matt Stebbings added: “It’s great to see all the grounds teams’ hard work paying off and them being recognised.

“A huge well done to everyone who was nominated but special mention to our winners Needham Market, runners-up Framlingham Town and third-placed Bury Town.

“There is funding available through the Premier League Stadium Fund for NLS clubs for ground grading requirements and specifically irrigation and drainage.

Any clubs interested in finding out more should get in touch with Matt Stebbings via email

GTOTY Judging May 3rd 2024

The Judging Panel speak to groundsman Paul Arnold (second right) during their visit to Bury Town FC.

Judging for the competition for the NLS Feeder League clubs will take place on Thursday and Friday of next week, May 9th & 10th.


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