Scottish Premiership players 'unanimous' in call for artificial surface ban - PFA Scotland

Celtic's Kieran Tierney lies injured on Hamilton's artificial surface
PFA Scotland says artificial surfaces impact players physically

Scottish Premiership players want artificial surfaces banned in the top flight, according to PFA Scotland.

Hamilton Academical, Kilmarnock and Livingston play on artificial surfaces.

A players union' petition circulated around the other nine clubs received signatures from every player stating they were against their use.

Chairman and St Johnstone midfielder Liam Craig said they believe that removing them "will have a positive impact on our game in Scotland".

He says the surfaces adversely impact player movement, performance and recovery - and potentially their livelihoods.

A petition with players' signatures will be delivered to the Scottish Professional Football League calling for action over artificial pitches - and the general standard of all pitches in senior football.

The union, which has not divulged exact figures for the number of players surveyed and how many responded, did not ask players at Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Livingston to participate as it thought it "unfair" to put them in a compromising position.

But Craig believes all players and managers would welcome a ban because of the "inconsistency of artificial surfaces at the top level".

"The ball rolls and bounces differently, which affects a player's decision making," he said.

"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 can not only affect future performances - but also team selection."

Hearts striker Steven MacLean, when he was at St Johnstone, is an example of a player who was usually left out the side when playing on artificial surfaces because of fears over his injury record.

"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," Craig said.

"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."

Rating system demand for Scottish pitches

The PFA Scotland petition also urges the SPFL to introduce a rating system designed to improve and monitor the quality of grass and artificial pitches.

"Players in the Championship, League One and League Two want the SPFL to introduce a blanket policy to ensure all surfaces - artificial or grass - are maintained to the highest standards possible," it states.

PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said: "This is a strong, powerful message from our members, those that actually play the game."

A statement from the SPFL said: "It's very important that we listen to the views of players. It's also important to note that every one of the artificial pitches used in the SPFL is independently inspected and certified by accredited FIFA experts to ensure it meets the very strict international quality and performance standards at the highest level set by FIFA.

"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.

"We look forward to further dialogue with PFA Scotland on this important issue."

Can players force change like in Netherlands? - analysis

BBC Scotland sport news correspondent Chris McLaughlin

Since the introduction of artificial surfaces to Scottish football in the late 1980s, arguments have raged about their impact on players and on the game itself.

Scores of studies have been carried out by academics looking at everything from health scares to the bounce of the ball.

After years of apparent ambivalence, world governing body Fifa has, more recently, given in to the financial benefits of non-grass and sanctioned major studies of its own.

But, since the first slab of Astroturf was laid, the one constant has been the opposition of the players. Those who take to the pitch on a weekly basis simply prefer grass.

This move by PFA Scotland, on behalf of those players, is designed to put pressure on clubs through the SPFL, but can it possible force change?

In Netherlands recently, some of the bigger clubs in their top flight gave up some of the European cash to convince smaller clubs to rip up their plastic. It may need something similar in Scotland for players to get their way.

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