SFA main­tains that ar­ti­fi­cial sur­faces have ‘a vi­tal role to play’ across all lev­els

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP - NEIL CAMERON

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.”

PLAS­TIC FAN­TAS­TIC: Rugby Park has been the cen­tre of at­ten­tion

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