Emirates Stadium Head Groundsman Paul Burgess is leaving the Club after Arsenal’s match against Fulham to join Real Madrid.

Paul joined Arsenal in 1996 as an 18 year-old, and took over as Highbury Head Groundsman four years later. He has been nominated as Premier League Groundsman of the Year in each of his seasons at the Club, winning the top award three times. He has also won the prestigious Institute of Groundsmanship Award and the 2008 Turf Professional of the Year Award.

He has worked as a consultant for UEFA for the past five years and will become Real Madrid's first full-time groundsman – previously contractors had cared for the Bernabeu playing surface – as is commonplace in Europe.

"I wasn't looking to leave Arsenal," explains Paul, "but I've always said that one day I would like to work for one of the big teams on the continent. I just think the timing is right. We've made the move to Emirates now, and proved that we can maintain, and even improve the standard, from the pitch we had at Highbury.

"I had a great time at Arsenal, I'm proud of what I've done here, and I think that I've also left a legacy on the whole of the Premier League. The lighting system that we introduced is used by most other teams over here now as well, and I think if you judge the standard of pitches in the Premier League across the board, they are much better than five years ago.

"I would like to thank everyone at Arsenal, particularly Arsène Wenger for all of his support, and I'll miss life at the Club.

"I've got an exciting challenge ahead of me, but I can assure Arsenal fans that the Emirates pitch is in very safe hands under Paul Ashcroft and his team."

Paul Ashcroft, who has been Burgess's assistant for more than eight years, will take over as Emirates Head Groundsman on Monday 2nd March.

Everyone at Arsenal Football Club wishes Paul Burgess the best of luck in his new career in Spain.

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28 Feb 2009