SFA maintains that artificial surfaces have ‘a vital role to play’ across all levels
THE Scottish Football Association have insisted plastic pitches are here to stay – no matter how strongly figures within the game object to them.
One of the main tasks of Cammy Watt, the SFA’s facilities manager, is to look at the “pitch strategy” at all levels in Scotland.
The debate over artificial surfaces intensified this week with Ronny Deila and Mark Warburton publicly disagreeing on their merits, although both believe natural grass should always be a preferred option.
“In an ideal world, football at all levels would be played on high quality, natural grass pitches,” said Watt. “However, the reality here in Scotland is that neither the weather nor the financial climate is perfect at the moment; 3G therefore has a vital role to play across the game.”
The biggest criticism is that the harder surface, compared to grass, causes more injuries on players. This is something Watt disputes.
“A number of studies have been undertaken on this subject, primarily in Scandinavia given the high number of 3G pitches in use at all levels of the game there,” he said.
“The consistent key finding across these studies is that there is no significant difference in the number or severity of injuries sustained on 3G versus that on natural grass. In fact, one study showed that recovery times were actually slightly longer for injuries sustained on natural grass compared to that on 3G, although it should be said that the differences are negligible on both sides.
“Developments in pitch technology means 3G pitches are only becoming safer and closer to mirroring the performance characteristics of natural grass.”
And as always with Scottish football, money or the lack it, is behind the decision whether to stay with grass or look to the alternative.
Watt said: “3G pitches can often introduce new revenue streams for clubs that previously did not exist.
“It changes the level of pitch use to seven days a week, 365 days a year, instead of the traditional six hours every other Saturday during a July-May season. And perhaps even more crucially, the expenditure clubs can save by not having to pay out for external training facilities can make a significant dent in the vitally important replacement fund required to replace the 3G surface at the end of its lifespan – usually around seven or eight years depending on use.
“I’ve had conversations with clubs where the money they save on training facilities equates very closely to that which requires to be invested in their longer-term pitch replacement fund.”
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