Celtic captain Scott Brown believes the Scottish football authorities need to “step up their game” and tighten regulations on the use and acceptability of top -flight playing surfaces.
Brown is a long-standing arch-critic of synthetic pitches and has recently become increasingly concerned by the standard of some of the country’s grass surfaces.
Scotland’s Player of the Year has now gone as far as to suggest the preparation and care of some pitches is carried out with a view to “stopping Celtic” playing their preferred style of football.
Brown was unhappy that the pitch at Hampden was not watered at half-time of the Scottish Cup Final last Saturday which Celtic won 2-0, both goals scored before the interval, to complete their historic double treble.
Next season’s Scottish Premiership will see a quarter of the participating clubs using artificial pitches.
Newly promoted Livingston are installing a 4G synthetic surface this summer. It will be similar to those already used by Kilmarnock and Hamilton Accies.
Some players, including new Hearts signing Steven MacLean and Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic, are effectively ruled out of playing on those pitches because of potential damage to their knees.
Artificial pitches are banned in the English Premier League and all three divisions of the English Football League. EPL rules also state that their grass pitches must be no longer than 30mm with the whole surface cut to the same height.
The Scottish Professional Football League and Scottish FA have no such regulations for matches played under their auspices. SPFL rules simply state that pitches should be “smooth and in good condition and repair”.
Earlier this month, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers was highly critical of the length of the pitch at Tynecastle. Now Brown insists it is time for the SPFL and SFA to follow England’s lead if they want to help improve standards in Scottish football.
“If you look down in England, I think that’s where we’re going wrong in Scotland,” said Brown.
“Everyone will try anything (in Scotland to stop us) – they’ll grow the grass, they don’t water it, but down in England, there are rules for these things. They want to see top quality football and that’s maybe where the Scottish game has gone wrong and that’s where the SFA maybe have to step up their game, to be perfectly honest.
“We play football the proper way, we get it down on the floor. They didn’t water the pitch at half-time (in the cup final) to try to stop us playing. But it didn’t stop us, we still tried to play our game.”
Brown and his team-mates will be playing home matches on a new surface next season after the club’s board backed a request from manager Rodgers to instal a £1.5 million Desso hybrid grass pitch at Celtic Park – similar to those used in the English Premier League.
“It’s going to be a better pitch next season, so that will suit our game,” added Brown. The 32-year-old midfielder is confident Celtic can find further improvements under Rodgers as they defend all three domestic trophies and also target further progress in the Champions League.
“Now we just push on,” he said. “Next season is a different opportunity for everybody, we’ll start fresh again.
“We’ve got the Champions League to try and get to and that’s where this club deserves to be, but we need to make sure we put in the hard work first.
“The first one for us is that we’ve got to try to get into the Champions League group stage, we’ve got to push on for that. I don’t see why we can’t then get into the last 16.
“The manager wants us to push and we want to push as well.
“We looked after ourselves so well this season, we pushed hard in the big games especially when we did really well and we cleared up again domestically.
“We’ll try to hold on to those trophies again next season. Nobody expected us to do the treble once, nobody expected us to do it twice, so who knows about the third time.”
Brown is relaxed about the prospect of a stronger challenge from Rangers under their new manager, Steven Gerrard.
“We’ll respond by winning games,” he said. “We’ve been to Ibrox a few times and we’ve won a lot. We enjoy playing at that place as well.
“Our overall stats were maybe not as impressive this season as they were the previous year, but we got into Europe after Christmas, so that was another goal that we ticked off.
“There were too many draws this season for us for our liking and too many defeats as well. So next season, we’ll work on that, we’ll get better. There’ll be a few additions to the squad as well so we’ll kick on from here.”