PFA Scotland sparks debate about future of artificial pitches

PFA Scotland has sparked a major debate on the future of artificial pitches after players overwhelmingly backed calls for them to be scrapped in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

The union claims every player from the nine top-flight clubs with grass pitches signed a petition delivered to the Scottish Professional Football League.

Players from the three clubs with artificial surfaces – Hamilton, Livingston and Kilmarnock – were not asked.

PFA Scotland representatives from the other 30 clubs have signed a separate petition calling for a blanket policy to ensure all surfaces – artificial or grass – are maintained to the highest standards possible.

The calls came as the players’ body released the results of its pitch survey, which saw players rate Hamilton’s pitch as the worst in Scotland last season. Kilmarnock also finished in the bottom three. Stirling had the top pitch with Motherwell’s deemed the best in the Premiership and only one artificial surface – Alloa’s – making the top 10.

Under SPFL rules, 75 per cent of clubs in each of the three voting sectors – Premiership, Championship and the two lower leagues – would need to back a ban, but the league says no club has made an approach to amend the rules.

PFA Scotland chairman Liam Craig said: “The inconsistency of artificial surfaces at the top level of Scottish football is a major factor on how the game is played by players. The ball rolls and bounces differently, which affects a player’s decision-making.

“Movements such as running, turning and tackling on the pitch also have a negative impact on the body which inevitably affects a player’s performance.

“Players often say it takes longer to recover after playing on an artificial pitch. This cannot only affect future performances, but also team selection.

“If a player takes longer to recover, a manager may not select them for games on these surfaces or for a game after playing on them.

“A decision based on this sees a player suffer financially – the player could not only miss out on bonuses and appearance money but could find themselves out of the team for a longer period purely down to a game being played on an artificial surface.”

However, Livingston manager Gary Holt dismissed the petition and declared the complaints stemmed from a culture of excuses.

“I’m not bothered and that’s me being polite,” he said. “It keeps getting talked about time and time again. But it’s an excuse. People look for excuses all the time when things are not going their way. If I win or lose home or away I never blame the pitch.

“FIFA has declared you can use them so who’s to say we can’t use them?

“I think there’s more important things in Scottish football that (we) can be worried about trying to implement.”

The SPFL vowed to listen to players but insisted the pitches were subjected to rigorous assessments.

A spokesperson added: “Whilst there will inevitably be ongoing debate on the relative merits of grass and artificial pitches, their use is approved by the SPFL and many other leagues and national associations all over the world and is sanctioned at all levels by the laws of football.

“Ultimately, this is a matter for SPFL clubs, but we have had no approaches from any such club to change the current rules or arrangements.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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