Hampden chief vows to fix pitch in six weeks

The Scottish Professional Football League has complained to Hampden Park bosses about the “highly unsatisfactory” pitch which sparked criticism from the clubs participating in the League Cup semi-finals.
Pitched battle: 
Celtic's Scott Brown (right) tackles Ian Black. Picture: SNSPitched battle: 
Celtic's Scott Brown (right) tackles Ian Black. Picture: SNS
Pitched battle: Celtic's Scott Brown (right) tackles Ian Black. Picture: SNS

Celtic manager Ronny Deila claimed his team had no chance of passing the ball on the surface, which proved a woefully inadequate platform to showcase a match which the SPFL last week revealed was being screened in 54 countries.

Rangers striker Kenny Miller branded the pitch “dangerous”, Celtic captain Scott Brown called it “shocking” and Ibrox full-back Richard Foster admitted it might have saved his team from a more resounding defeat than their 2-0 loss.

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The company that runs the national stadium earlier admitted regret that the pitch did not meet standards, claiming the weather had hampered efforts to bed the turf in after it was relaid in November following Hampden’s temporary status as an athletics venue during last summer’s Commonwealth Games.

The pitch at Hampden on Sunday. Picture: SNSThe pitch at Hampden on Sunday. Picture: SNS
The pitch at Hampden on Sunday. Picture: SNS

A statement from the league read: “The Scottish Professional Football League has today written formally to Hampden Park concerning the highly unsatisfactory condition of the pitch for the Scottish League Cup semi-finals, presented by QTS.”

Chief executive Neil Doncaster added: “The SPFL pays a significant sum of money for the use of Hampden Park for these matches. We require that Hampden Park provides a quality pitch in excellent condition for our prestigious cup matches.

“The players of the teams involved in these special games deserve to enjoy the best possible football pitch conditions to allow fans in the ground and supporters watching on TV around the world to be entertained. This quality of pitch is what we were assured would be provided ahead of the semi-finals, however this clearly did not happen over the weekend. “We have written to HPL to understand what they plan to do over the next six weeks to ensure that we get the quality of pitch in a condition we require for our Scottish League Cup final presented by QTS on Sunday March 15.”

Peter Dallas, who is the managing director of Hampden Park Ltd, insists that work will be carried out to make sure that the pitch is ready for then.

Queen’s Park have three home matches in League 2 before Celtic and Dundee United return to Hampden for the final.

Scotland are due to play twice at Hampden later in March, against Northern Ireland in a friendly and then in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar.

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In a statement, Dallas said: “It is regrettable that the new Hampden Park surface did not meet expectations during the Scottish League Cup semi-final weekend.

“This was due in part to the excessive rainfall and freezing temperatures that have hindered the development of the pitch – an issue that has not been unique to the national stadium this winter – but also the timescale of restoration work undertaken since the Commonwealth Games.

“Preparing Hampden for the Commonwealth Games and returning the stadium for football has been a very detailed and in-depth operation.

“The new pitch was laid in November last year and we had worked closely with Glasgow 2014 to ensure the works started at the earliest opportunity.

“We will be working on a programme over the next six weeks to present the pitch in the best possible condition for the Scottish League Cup final and the Scotland national team’s return to Hampden for the international challenge match against Northern Ireland and European qualifier against Gibraltar in March.”

Celtic boss Deila said after Sunday’s match: “We are a passing team and you had no chance to pass the ball on that pitch.

“It was very hard to entertain our fans. If you are going to develop Scottish football you need pitches to play football on. It has to be much better.”

Rangers caretaker boss Kenny McDowall, as well as Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara and Derek McInnes of Aberdeen, whose teams played their semi-final at Hampden on Saturday, were also critical.