Artificial pitches in Scotland: Views of managers and players

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The debate on artificial grass

PFA Scotland has sparked debate on the use of artificial pitches, calling for research on their effects on players.

Players union spokesperson Stuart Lovell has told BBC Scotland that its members "need to be listened to". He cited the results of a 2013 survey of 700 players in which 73% said they would prefer to play on a "deteriorating grass pitch" than a plastic one.

Twelve of Scotland's 42 Scottish Professional Football League clubs use artificial pitches, two of them - Kilmarnock and Hamilton - in the Premiership.

BBC Scotland has been gauging their popularity among managers and players.

The managers

John Hughes - Inverness CT

"At first I was all for it but now I think we should all be playing on grass.

"There's another side to it which I can totally understand in terms of the community and academies and the finance.

"It's not great for football unless it's wet, you know it's sticky, it's bouncy. Players are not happy with it.

The Scottish Premier League ordered Dunfermline to replace their controversial plastic pitch in 2005
The Scottish Premier League ordered Dunfermline to replace their controversial plastic pitch in 2005

"Just tell the truth, it's the injuries. You pick up joint problems, knee problems, ankle, hip problems.

"You have a slide tackle and if it's not wet you get burnt. It's not conducive to football.

"In terms of it being in the top flight in the SPFL, it's not for me.

"I would make every club pay a bond, let's say £50,000. If your pitch meets the criteria right through the season, you get your 50 grand back.

"If you put that bond in place everybody would look after their pitch and it would be a lot better to play football in Scotland."

Mark McGhee - Motherwell

"Players and their attitudes toward pitches are different from the facts.

"As a player, I would say no, but as a manager I know we wouldn't be training today if we didn't have AstroTurf.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila and players get a feel for the playing surface at New Douglas Park
Celtic manager Ronny Deila and players get a feel for the artificial playing surface at New Douglas Park

"As far as playing competitive matches on them, there are huge practical concerns for a lot of clubs about the maintenance of pitches and revenue, which have to be taken into account.

"Unless someone shows evidence that players are getting injured or the standard is a fraction of what it should be then we have to accept that these are the times we live in.

"Personally, I wouldn't want to play on an AstroTurf pitch or have one fitted here, because the type of football you get is different than from on grass, but I understand why some people have it."

Tommy Wright - St Johnstone

"The game is about players.

"If the figures they are talking about are a high percentage that are unhappy with them, then it's quite right that something has to be looked at.

"It's always easy to criticise the grass pitches when the weather is bad but pitches then get work done on them and they do improve.

"Artificial is certainly different but I think it is wrong in a sporting sense.

"For example, we can't play Steven MacLean on it due to medical advice."

Lee McCulloch - Kilmarnock caretaker manager

"We have picked up a few injuries on the surface (at Rugby Park).

"The numbers are quite high. For me, being an experienced player, I find it a little bit harder to play on it because of my age.

"We're training on it every day. I think once you get used to it, they're fine."

The players

Ross Draper - Inverness CT

"I don't agree with them but I can understand why clubs have them.

"We stayed at Kilmarnock in the hotel opposite the ground. In the morning you can see they've got young kids on the pitch. They obviously make a lot of money, there's not much maintenance on them.

"For me I'd much rather play on a poor grass pitch than an artificial one.

"We've had a couple of injuries, I'm not saying they're linked but you'll never know.

"Dean Brill did his knee at Hamilton. I did my ligaments away at Kilmarnock.

"The ball doesn't run right, there a different check on the ball, things like that. I'd much rather every pitch was grass.

"I personally would think twice about signing for a club with an artificial pitch."

A steward puts out a flare thrown on to Falkirk's artificial pitch
A steward puts out a flare thrown on to Falkirk's artificial pitch

Shay Logan - Aberdeen

"I do get a bit stiffer a few days after playing on an artificial pitch.

"The ball bounces differently than on a grass pitch but after five or 10 minutes of playing you forget about what ground you're on and it just becomes a football pitch.

"I prefer to play on grass but it's not always the way."

Stephen McManus - Motherwell

"They're not for me. We take our under-17s to train on it and to develop young kids it's great.

"It's not for me in the professional game. Anybody who says it's a positive only says that (because of) financial restrictions in the club.

"I can understand it, but I don't think Scottish football should play professionally on it.

"I feel the effects of it if I play on it on a Saturday, in comparison to grass. Players are the ones who need to be listened to on it, because they play on it week in, week out. But the quality of grass has to be good enough."

Steven MacLean - St Johnstone

"A few years ago I played on AstroTurf. I think I was at Hamilton and a week or so later I had to go and see the surgeon.

"I needed an operation as I had a micro fracture. Then the same happened about a year later. I played on AstroTurf again and I needed another operation.

"I spoke to the surgeon and he advised me not to play on the AstroTurf. Now when an AstroTurf game comes around the gaffer (Tommy Wright) just takes it out of my hands and tells me straight away I will not be playing.

"It's a totally different game. You can't move as well, it's a lot firmer and it takes your body longer to recover."

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