Players want grass pitches at top level, says PFA chief

Players want grass pitches at top level, says PFA chief

Scottish PFA chief executive Fraser Wishart has said players have shown a preference for football to be played on grass pitches at the top level and urged their views to be considered in any debate.

Wishart was speaking after the release of a study undertaken by the players' union, the Scottish FA and industry experts Sports Labs, which compiled the ratings of professional players to establish a list of the best, and worst, surfaces in the Scottish game.

The two artificial pitches in the Premiership, at Kilmarnock and Hamilton Accies, finished with two of the lowest three scores from across 42 clubs.

Wishart said having high-quality surfaces could improve the standard of games fans are watching and that it was clear that players would prefer to be on grass.

"I think you have to have a pitch you can pass the ball on, and I think particularly in the Premiership and Championship," he told STV. "Players also like to have traction when they are turning and they can play the game at ease, but the main part is about playing the ball on the ground.

"Scottish football over recent years has taken a kicking from one or two people. I think it's better than people perceive but I've also seen some poor pitches and it just doesn't help the standard of play because clubs just play back to front.

"We did a survey on artificial surfaces about three or four years ago and we got a huge response. Almost 800 players responded and 72% of them said they would rather play on a deteriorating grass pitch, that was the question, rather than an artificial one. I don't think that's changed and I think the results, certainly at a higher level.

"The players would prefer to play on grass and that's where I think there should be a proper debate involving our members, the guys who are on the pitch and know the pitches. I think if we can get that started just now then we can start to look at improving the standards all over."

The PFA chief welcomed the opportunity to gather information, which was done using an app that allowed players to rate every surface they played on, and highlighted the importance of respecting the views of the players who work on the surfaces every week.

"It's brilliant for us to be involved and for our members to be able to put forward their views," he said.

"Too often football players aren't asked to put forward their opinion, or they are just dismissed, but we've worked with Sports Labs and the Scottish FA so between us I think we have covered all bases.

"It's just great to have groundbreaking information come forward because the standard and quality of the pitches obviously has an effect on the quality of football on show. So if we can improve the quality, whether they be grass or artificial then I think a lot of good will come out of this.

"Players do care about the game. The pitch is their place of work so if they're not enjoying it or if it's not in good condition then I think that has an effect on them.

"But they also care about the game and if you've got a better quality pitch then you get a better quality game, you get better quality players, a better product for the supporter paying through the gate and perhaps even more through it, and wider on television and other forms of the media as well, people see i from abroad and the perception and image of our game is better.

"So we want to see improvements and discussions started, and if this survey can kick-start a better standard of pitches then all to the better."


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