Brendan Rodgers wasn’t happy with the state of the Tynecastle surface in the wake of his side’s 3-1 victory over Hearts, calling it “embarrassing” for a top flight pitch.
To help fans understand the issue, we’ve broken it down and answered five key questions around the debate.
WHAT ADVANTAGES ARE THERE?
A combination of lengthy grass and a dry pitch should slow the game down. We’ve all seen matches where there’s been a bit of light rain and the ball (and players) skim along the surface at quite a rate. There’s not as much resistance on the football and the match should move quicker as a result.
Against Celtic, Hearts didn’t want the ball to move quickly. Celtic are the best team in the league and one of their biggest strengths is their passing. They can zip it around opponents in the blink of an eye. It’s very difficult to defend.
By slowing down the champions, Hearts were able to press more effectively and caused Celtic a lot of problems in the first half. Brendan Rodgers even admitted himself that he had to alter his tactics to adjust.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES?
For one or two games the home players will be fine, but over time it would probably start to rankle with those in the Tynecastle dressing room. It’s tougher to play in longer grass. While the effects wouldn’t be felt in any individual action, over the course of the game it would wear them down quicker. Every step without the ball or every kick of it would require just a little extra energy, which then builds up over the course of a game.
Manager Craig Levein said he believed his players became tired in the second period. The weather would have played a factor, with temperatures close to 20C, but the grass may not have helped also.
IS THERE A PRECEDENT?
“It makes no sense. There should be a law about the length of the grass. It is important for the fans and for the quality of football. There are laws about everything but there is no rule about the length of the grass. People don’t want dry pitches with long grass.”
Those aren’t the words of Brendan Rodgers, but Barcelona legend Xavi. The World Cup winner hit out at Real Madrid following the first leg of a Champions League semi-final first-leg at the Bernaubeu in 2011.
There was another incident three years later when Barca complained to Uefa about the length of the grass at the Vicente Calderon before a Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid. That same year, in English football, then-Swansea boss Gary Monk criticised Sunderland for the length of grass on their pitch, saying it contributed to a dreary goalless draw between the sides at the Stadium of Light.
WHAT ARE THE RULES?
There are no specific mention of grass length or pitch dryness in the SPFL rule book, though it does say that each club “shall ensure that the field of play at its registered ground and at any other ground at which it is the home club...is smooth and in good condition and repair”.
Therefore, like many rules in football, it is up to interpretation. As long as officials deem the pitch to be “smooth and in good condition and repair” then it’s up to the individual clubs exactly how long they want the grass to be.
If it gets too long to the point where it is no longer considered “smooth” then the SPFL board holds the right to impose sanctions which “require the Club concerned to take such steps within such time and on such conditions as the Board shall specify, if the Board is not satisfied that the Club concerned is complying or has complied in all respects”.
WHAT WILL HEARTS DO WITH THEIR PITCH NEXT?
With Hibs, themselves a passing side, coming to Gorgie on Wednesday it would be surprising if Hearts trimmed the length of their blades prior to the match, especially as it’s the last game of the season at Tynecastle.
In the summer the club plan to modernise the pitch by making it a hybrid surface. This is where artificial grass is stitched into the surface (making up about 5-10 per cent of the overall pitch) in order to ensure good condition throughout the season. This will cost around £1million and take two summers to fully implement.