0 Manager condemns pitch

Manager condemns plastic pitch

By Editor

The debate is going to continue now for the next two years, while the Dunfermline surface is tested under the UEFA guidelines, but early criticism has started to emerge. The first two games produced 0-0 matches, with players trying to adjust to the surface, the latest game ended with the pitch being blasted by the away manager.

Partick Thistle manager Gerry Collins has voiced his concern about Dunfermline's new artificial surface and does not think that plastic pitches are the way forward. Partickwere beaten 2-1 at East End Park and, while Collins admits his team were second best, he was not at all impressed by the playing field. Collins said "The pitch is dreadful and it takes away the art of tackling, which is an important part of the game."

He continued, "Our players did not know what footwear to use and you could see players slipping all over the place in the opening quarter of the game and it got no better when it started to rain. I blame the authorities who have allowed this to happen at SPL level. Fine for hockey, juvenile football but not at the top level, it would never happen in the Premiership and I will be interested to hear what Martin O'Neil and Alex McLeish have got to say about it.

Other comments and observations have been noted on various news reports, including the following, 'Apparently the main complaints are from defenders who claim that tackling, and more crucially slide-tackling is very different, and leaves them with burns from the plastic.'

There has also been debate on our own message boards including, 'Can anyone give me a reason why UEFA are pushing artificial turf ?

(hint definitely not because they have interest in turf management/playing surfaces. Could be -more games = more profit = fans have to fork out more money = more leagues = more replica kits = fans have to pay out more money = profit = bigger clubs get richer = players get more money = Groundsman gets same money as 10 years ago = saturation/over exposure = player injury/tiredness = lower attendances = smaller clubs in financial difficulty = that's the way we are already headed and Abromoviches are few and far between (anyone saving Notts county?)

'In regards to natural turf v artificial, football has always been played on grass. but due to the bigger stadia and the business/corporate interests in the game, the grass roots of the game is not important to these people. UEFA and all the other governing bodies are only interested in bigger revenues, and that each team has an equal chance on the playing surfaces in the competitions. This is not the game of football that we all like and know. Where is the "home advantage" when played on artificial surfaces. On the view of injuries played on these surfaces time can only tell. But more importantly to our profession where will all us Groundsman be? Other careers? Dole queue? General dogs body ( sorry some of you are that now ) but doing less hours and on less money. Sweeping/brushing these surfaces. GREAT CAREER....... GREAT FUTURE. But where do you go from here?????
As Groundsman we should not be really entertaining and promoting these surfaces. The FA with their grass roots programme and REFF reports - are they helping us! NO they are promoting them just by keeping quiet to the likes of FIFA and UEFA and trialling these surfaces- Scotland! So in a few years time, who fancies the job centre. I don't, I've been there and it is not a very nice place to be in. I think we have to look towards the organisations, unions and institutes in our trade to help us. But...... are they promoting these surfaces?'

There is also a letter (below) that I received from Lex van der Weerd, International product manager, Barenbrug Holland BV. Lex has kindly let me reproduce his letter and I think that it's time the natural turf side of the Industry started to lobby the FA, UEFA and FIFA as a single body, before it's too late. If you feel strongly about the possible introduction of synthetic turf at all our stadium venues then why not voice your opinion or offer your support on the message boards, click here to join in.

Dear Mr. Dave Saltman,

With great interest I took notice from your article on the Turfgrass website from the Ohio State University.

In the end of this article you stated that it is time for the natural turf industry to respond to the strong offensive of the artificial turf industry. I fully agree with your point of view!

Barenbrug (Holland) has strongly offended against this "fancy" new product in the last years. Not by just blaming artificial turf, but through offering solutions to the sports turf industry. In our opinion nothing is wrong with natural turf and the idea that (professional) football has to be played on artificial turf in the (near?) future is absolutely ridiculous!

Due to some architects who never considered good grass growth in a new build stadium or reconstructed stadium, some stadiums in Europe are suffering from severe pitch problems. Because ground men were not educated or well prepared to react on the new situation in the stadium the pitch quality dropped considerably. An excellent opportunity for the artificial grass industry to make use of this situation. They also made FIFA and UEFA believe that natural grass would be history because their product would be even better than natural grass.
UEFA and FIFA are gaining a lot of money from artificial grass. For each FIFA or UEFA approved product the artificial turf industry has to pay an annual licence fee to keep this licence. No wonder that UEFA and FIFA are not willing to listen to Barenbrug and associated companies which are offering serious solutions for problem pitches. Despite the fact we have tried to get in touch with them, they just ignore us because they are not earning any money from the natural turf industry. This is not supporting the interest of football at all!

Barenbrug Holland was invited two years ago by the Amsterdam Arena stadium to come up with solutions for their pitch. This pitch doesn't need any further introduction because it was almost every day negative in the press on TV or on the radio.
Since last year this has changed! The pitch is excellent and the annual number of re-turfing has been reduced with more than 50% but in the same period the use of the pitch (matches, training, etc) has more than doubled. Re-turfing is only necessary now due to the large number of other activities organised in the stadium and not because of the poor quality of the grass. The current grass in the Amsterdam stadium has survived a large number of football matches, training hours and twice the Rolling Stones concerts. The quality is still very good and the Dutch national team will play their Play-off match for the Euro 2004 in the Amsterdam Arena because the management of the Dutch team is praising the turf quality of the pitch! We think, a great victory for natural turf.

Barenbrug is of the opinion that this success is not just a one-shot success. Barenbrug's intensive research activities have resulted in the introduction of new species, varieties and innovative mixtures. Moreover, we have also discovered new aspects in pitch maintenance which can make the difference. Those who are in contact with Barenbrug have made progress. Too bad UEFA and FIFA are still blind for this.

Barenbrug wishes that more people in the natural turf industry are aware of the threat coming from artificial turf. This threat will also mean loss of employment under Groundsmen in the future. Together we can show the football industry and football organisations that natural turf has still a good future. It is just a matter of believing in it!

Yours sincerely,

Lex van der Weerd
International product manager
Barenbrug Holland BV

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Contact Kerry Haywood

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