Robert (Rob) G Donald – Technical Director & Principal
Rob’s early interest in sports turf stemmed from his childhood in rural Northumberland were the house he grew up in had a lawn tennis court. Rob’s ‘Saturday job’ was to mow the tennis court (with an old Atco cylinder mower) ensuring it was nicely striped up! His mowing experience developed into a small enterprise where he developed a “mowing round” managing lawns within his local village. As a passionate fly fisherman, Robert has spent hours studying water flow and real-time hydrology.
This early interest was developed through his Newcastle University Engineering degree as he studied soil mechanics and fluid flow engineering as a component of his degree, Agricultural & Environmental Engineering, graduating in 1993. During an “industrial year in industry” Robert joined MJ Abbott Ltd (Salisbury Wilts); a leading sports facility and golf construction contractor; as a site technician and irrigation team operative. Upon graduation, Robert re-joined MJ Abbott Ltd as a graduate placement and progressed within the company to the position of a contract engineer (project manager).
During his four years with MJ Abbott, Rob developed his contract management and project design skills initiating several new business development avenues including overseas opportunities which included his contribution to a complex landscape irrigation installation package during the construction phase of Euro Disney, Paris and an ambitious land drainage design and install package for a Jack Nicklaus golf course design construction near Cologne, Germany. Rob developed a specialty in sports turf drainage of natural turf sporting surfaces, particularly golf & winter sports pitches.
Rob was subsequently headhunted to join White Horse Contractors Ltd as their new Managing Director in 1996, a position which he was to hold for 15 years. Whilst at the helm, Rob guided Whitehorse Contractors forward and into new markets which saw the business grow into the U.K.’s leading specialist sports surface contractor and a corresponding tenfold increase in the company netbook value.
Rob prided himself on teambuilding, astute commercial management, specialist machinery acquisition and staff retention and training. Rob always provided an accessible ‘point of contact’ for every client, staff member and company stakeholder. His “door always open” policy was industry renowned and assisted the company in securing several of the nation’s most significant sports surface and complex landscape construction projects.
Such projects included:
- Ascot Racecourse track rebuild
- Chelsea Football Club training ground construction
- The FA National Football Centre (now St George’s Park) construction, Burton on Trent
- Guards Polo Club Smith’s Lawns redevelopment, Windsor Great Park
- Welsh Rugby Football Union Centre of Excellence, Hensol
- Design and construct RSPB wetland nature reserve at Otmoor, Oxfordshire
- Y2K project, Forest of Marston Vale design and build country Park upon 50 ha London Brick Company brownfield site
- The North-Eastern section of the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park venue for the London 2012 Olympic games
The experiences gleaned through the delivery of these major projects has furnished him with the experience and professional resources to tackle projects of extraordinary complexity, magnitude and significance. His passion is to produce quality legacy projects providing amenity and environmental value for generations to come.
Robert is a member of the Institute of Agricultural Engineers, a Chartered Environmentalist and a current CSCS cardholder- ‘professionally qualified person’ combined with his degree in engineering (specialising in soil and water engineering). In addition to the foregoing, Robert was a previous chairman of the LDCA (Land Drainage Contractors Association) and has been active in the British Association of Golf Course Contractors, British turf and Landscape Irrigation Association and a member of the steering committee of SAPCA natural turf construction division.
Robert’s academic credentials support his practical and ‘hands on’ experience to give his clients a service of unparalleled professional competence and experience. His industry experience and knowledge has attracted frequent ‘visiting lecturer’ appointments at numerous educational resources.
Liana R Blackburn – Office Administrator, Site Visit Field Work Technician & Technical Data Researcher
As a new member to the team, Liana has established her position as a key member of the company. Having secured her first degree from the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester – BSc(Hons) International Equine & Agricultural Business Management, Liana went on to study a postgraduate diploma in Rural Estate Management. This RICS accredited qualification gives Liana exemplary mapping skills and technical surveying knowledge, supporting much of the development planning work that the company is engaged in. Liana’s extensive equestrian experience and knowledge is frequently put to use with equestrian projects that are delivered by Sports & Spaces Ltd as our in-house equestrian expert.
Liana manages the office, works diary, reception & customer liaison and will often be the first point of contact for new enquiries to the business.
The business accounting services are administered by Katie, Robert’s wife, who is a qualified bookkeeper and financial administrator.
The company operates with numerous affiliates and associates which are called upon for specific contributions to our projects. Our vast industry experiences are transferable to our clients offering an unparalleled advisory service.