Artificial pitches: The good, the bad and the regulations

Superseal Stadium
Hamilton's artificial surface was ranked the worst pitch in the country in a player poll last year

Artificial pitches are used by a quarter of all top-flight Scottish clubs - Hamilton Academical, Kilmarnock and Livingston.

PFA Scotland say a petition of members at clubs who play on grass returned a 100% response against the use of synthetic pitches.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard believes they don't belong in elite football, while Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers once claimed he had "yet to see a good game on a plastic pitch".

But are they really that bad? What specifically does the Scottish FA do to ensure they are up to standard?

Are artificial pitches actually "the way ahead"? Or will the Scottish Professional Football League respond to the latest survey?

Who considers them bad and why?

In a previous survey of Scottish Professional Football League players, two of the three lowest-ranked pitches were the artificial surfaces used by Scottish Premiership clubs Hamilton and Kilmarnock.

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson insists "people have to listen" to players' concerns.

"In terms of the players, they don't like playing on it. Simply, every player I speak to hates playing on the Astro," he said.

"I understand the financial reasons why certain clubs have got it, but in general, I feel the country would be much better off with grass pitches.

"But players are the most important people in football and they are really uncomfortable playing on it. If they want change, people have to listen."

Dundee manager Jim McIntyre added: "My big gripe about plastic pitches is they are all different. In our league, if you look at Kilmarnock, it is totally different to Livingston.

"Having been to Falkirk several times and Queen of the South, which we have been on this year, they are all completely different.

"And that's where I am not a fan of it. I wasn't a fan of them as a player and I'm not a fan as a manager."

Steven Gerrard
Rangers winger Jamie Murphy was taken off on a stretcher after an injury on Kilmarnock's artificial surface last August

'It looks a bit Mickey Mouse'

Aberdeen defender Dom Ball was one of the players who voted against the use of artificial pitches in the latest Scottish PFA survey.

"I signed the petition to hopefully get rid of them, along with a lot of my team-mates," he said.

"Playing in top-flight football, especially in the Scottish League, which is improving and developing... I think to move forward, grass pitches are favoured. Playing on them and even training on them at certain times… grass pitches are definitely better."

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'Grass pitches are definitely better'

Former Motherwell and Celtic striker Scott McDonald believes that, while the pitches may have a place in grassroots football and lower levels, their inclusion in the top flight is damaging the Scottish game.

"If Scottish football is serious about the spectacle it's trying to output to the rest of the world, personally I think it looks a bit Mickey Mouse when you see three Astroturf pitches in your top league," McDonald said.

"It's false. It's like putting a golfer on 4G to play golf. The game of football was played originally on grass and that's what it's meant to be on."

What are the rules and regulations?

With so many voices against the surfaces, it puts into question how the pitches are approved.

Sports Labs, an independent laboratory that works with Fifa on the testing of artificial pitches, assess Scottish stadiums for the SPFL during the close season.

Materials are inspected and certified before being approved for use by Fifa - and then the laid pitch is inspected.

While Fifa inspection and approval is an annual process, for the three artificial pitches in the Premiership, the SPFL instructs three further in-season random tests without warning.

'It's just an excuse' - the case for the defence

Livingston manager Gary Holt has been an advocate of artificial pitches all season since joining the Premiership club as manager.

Their Tony Macaroni Arena switched to a plastic pitch in the summer before their return to the top flight.

"It keeps getting talked about time and time again but it's an excuse," he said. "People look for excuses time and time again when things aren't going their way.

"There are more things in Scottish football that we can worry about and try to implement. All I hear is people moaning that there are not enough grassroots pitches for kids. That they're a disgrace, they're flooded, and they're iced. You can't have it both ways.

"I'm delighted my players weren't asked about it. We are not bothered. It's for other people to moan about."

Daryl Horgan
Daryl Horgan playing at Livingston's Tony Macaroni Arena this season

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