On behalf of its members, PFA Scotland recently submitted a petition to the SPFL calling for action over artificial surfaces and the general standard of all pitches in Scottish Football.
Members participated in large numbers, in a joint survey with the Scottish FA on artificial surfaces in 2013. Now, following the success of the PitchRater App and it's results from the 2017/18 season, PFA Scotland has taken further soundings from our Management Committee, Club Reps and players during club visits across all 42 SPFL clubs this season.
Whilst the overall purpose of the Improving Pitches Petition is to raise the standards of the pitches played on by ALL of our members, there are distinct differences between the Petitions signed by the players in the Premiership and the Championship, League One & League Two:
- Players in the Premiership are calling for artificial surfaces to be BANNED in Scottish Football's top flight (players at Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Livingston were NOT asked to participate in the Petition as we felt it was unfair to ask players at these clubs to sign the Petition)
- Players in the Championship, League One and League Two want the SPFL to introduce a blanket policy to ensure ALL surfaces - artificial or grass - are maintained to the highest standards possible
EVERY PLAYER IN THE PREMIERSHIP (EXCEPT THOSE AT HAMILTON, KILMARNOCK AND LIVINGSTON) HAS SIGNED THE PETITION AND IN THE OTHER DIVISIONS - THE CHAMPIONSHIP, LEAGUE ONE AND LEAGUE TWO - EVERY CLUB REP HAS SIGNED ON BEHALF OF HIS TEAMMMATES.
St Johnstone's Liam Craig, Chairman of PFA Scotland, said: "Players believe that removing artificial surfaces from the top league and improving them throughout the SPFL Championship, League One and League Two will have a positive impact on our game in Scotland."
"The inconsistency of artificial surfaces at the top level of Scottish football is a major factor on how the game is played by players."
"The ball rolls and bounces differently which effects a players decision making."
"Movements such as running, turning and tackling on the pitch also have a negative impact on the body which inevitably effects a players performance."
"Players often say it takes longer to recover after playing on an artificial pitch. This can not only effect future performances, but also team selection."
"If a player takes longer to recover, a manager may not select them for games on these surfaces or for a game after playing on them."
"A decision based on this sees a player suffer financially - the player could not only miss out on bonuses and appearance money but could find themselves out of the team for a longer period purely down to a game being played on an artificial surface."
PFA Scotland Chief Executive Fraser Wishart said: "This is a strong, powerful message from our members, those that actually play the game."
"It is abundantly clear from our conversations with all 42 squads our members feel passionately about Scottish football and care about the image and perception of the game they love. Football is of course an entertainment industry, but our members do not enjoy playing on artificial surfaces in particular."
"The SPFL recently agreed television contracts meaning Premiership matches will be seen all over the world; this can only be good for Scottish football which is in a good place now."
"To keep improving, and to capitalise on the feel good factor, our members are of the view that having quality pitches to play on is of vital importance."
"Our members in the Premiership want to see regulation in place that will ensure all Premiership pitches are grass which are maintained to the highest standards. The standard of grass pitches in the Premiership has improved, particularly since the Pitch Rater App has been in place, therefore there is no reason why clubs at the highest level cannot have a well-maintained grass pitch."
"Our members in all Divisions feel artificial surfaces are often over-used and the priority seems to be community use, not first team matches, therefore these surfaces drop in standard very quickly. Players in the Championship, League 1 and League 2 ask for a quicker turn around when replacing the artificial surfaces they play on."
In a statement released yesterday, PFA Scotland welcomed the opportunity to clear up a few points and explain the process of how the Petition came about.
Firstly, and important to note, the Improving Pitches Petition is a Petition and NOT a survey as has been misrepresented - no questions were asked, the players simply had to read and agree the wording by signing their name to it.
The Petition is PLAYER led, it was NOT initiated by PFA Scotland. It is the players calling for change. At this season's 42 PFA Scotland club visits, the players were very vocal in their frustration at the state of pitches/surfaces they are being asked to play on week-in, week-out across the SPFL.
Off the back of these visits, a proposal from players at a Premiership club was brought to our Management Committee - which is made up of players across the four SPFL Divisions - calling for action in the form of a Petition to be sent to the SPFL making their views clear. This was discussed at length, and approved by, the Management Committee who requested that PFA Scotland put together a Petition for players across the leagues to sign.
After more lengthy discussion and debate, the Management Committee also agreed it would be unfair to ask the players at Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Livingston to sign the Petition as by criticising their own club they could potentially be in breach of their contract. Players' contracts, similar to those in any work place, have a clause prohibiting them from criticising their employer either orally or in writing, publicly or privately.
We have had a situation where a player was heavily fined by his Club for criticising his own pitch in a post-match interview.
As a Trade Union, it would be irresponsible for us to put our members in that position. Members at these clubs were made aware of the existence of the Petition and the reasons for their non-involvement.
It should be noted that the Petition - signed by 230 first team players at nine Premiership clubs and 30 Club Reps in the Championship, League One and League Two on behalf of their teammates - is the collective voice of the players from across 39 clubs in the SPFL and it is their hope that going forward they will be involved in any discussions regarding pitch improvement.
Ultimately, it's the views of the decision makers that will prevail, although the views of players and managers are difficult to ignore. Our petition reflects the views of the professional players who play on them.
The strong and powerful message from our members is clear and unambiguous. Any member who has a query should not hesitate to pick up the phone and call his union.
You can obtain more information and download the petition here