Fraser Wishart: Time to listen to stars who hate playing on plastic

Graeme Glen with his trophy at Forthbank. Picture: SNS.
Graeme Glen with his trophy at Forthbank. Picture: SNS.
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PFA Scotland chief Fraser Wishart says it is time clubs started listening to top-flight players when they say they hate playing on plastic pitches.

Hamilton and Kilmarnock’s astroturf surfaces have been branded two of the three worst pitches in Scotland following a survey of the nation’s professionals.

Players from the 42 SPFL clubs were asked to rate the pitches at away grounds as part of a study organised jointly by PFA Scotland, Sports Labs and the Scottish Football Association.

And it was Accies’ New Douglas Park that got the biggest thumbs down, with players scoring it on average just 1.18 out of 5. The artificial surface at Rugby Park scored just 1.70.

Newly-promoted Livingston’s decision to install their own 4G pitch next season means a quarter of Ladbrokes Premiership grounds will stage games on plastic next term.

The good news for Wishart’s members is that Hamilton have already started work on installing an upgraded astroturf surface ahead of the new season but the union boss insists clubs should be made to replace deteriorating surfaces sooner – if not told to rip them up for good.

He said: “We want to have a proper debate about the level that artificial surfaces should be used. The results of this 
survey say the players in the Premiership don’t want to play on it.

“Of course, as you go down the leagues, there is perhaps a place for them but we need to have regulation in place that means clubs are putting aside a sinking fund, money which means they can be replaced sooner because they do deteriorate.

“When they are being used day in, day out for community use, that’s fantastic, but that means the surface on a Saturday isn’t as good as they do deteriorate quicker.

“So we need to open up a proper debate and club owners and decision-makers have to listen to what the players are saying. They have voted in numbers to say they don’t like artificial surfaces.”

Graeme Glen, of League Two side Stirling Albion, was named groundsman of the year after the surface at Forthbank Stadium came out on top of the study with a score of 4.43. Motherwell’s Fir Park has been voted the top performing Premiership pitch and fourth overall after the Steelmen invested considerable sums bringing their surface up to scratch.

Back in 2010 they were warned they could face sanctions if they did not improve the quality of their rutted playing field and now Wishart hopes other clubs will follow Motherwell’s lead.

“I watched a game earlier this season but I felt it was almost dangerous with big chunks of turf coming up,” he said. “So both teams ended up playing back to front because they couldn’t play through the midfield area.

“If we’re going to try to develop our game then the surfaces have to be up to scratch. You wouldn’t ask Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy to putt on bumpy greens – because they couldn’t.

“If you have a great surface you get a great product.”