You may have seen the news that Graeme Glen's surface at Stirling Albion was voted by players in the Scottish football leagues as the best pitch north of the border - with Graeme himself named Groundsman of the Year.
Many congratulations to Graeme for a well-deserved win. A win which was voted for by the people who should know best how good a surface truly is.
However, unusually for awards of this sort, rather than just announcing the winners, the app which was used by the players for voting has released a full rundown of all the clubs in the Scottish leagues. Which means that someone has of course finished bottom.
That ignominy has befallen Hamilton Academical FC and the artificial surface they play on at their New Douglas Park ground. Their surface scored an average of 1.18 out of five. The second worst scoring pitch was Kilmarnock's Rugby Park, another artificial one, which averaged 1.70 out of five.
This announcement that players have down-voted artificial surfaces en masse has sparked some serious debate regards to what degree should non-natural surfaces should be used in the Scottish game?
For a start, winning groundsman Graeme Glen, when being interviewed by Sky Sports News regarding his triumph said he would be "horrified" if he ever had to replace his natural surface with an artificial one. He added, "I firmly believe that football should be played on turf."
Then PFA Scotland chief Fraser Wishart said it is time clubs started listening to top-flight players when they say they do not enjoy playing on them.
He was quoted by BT Sport as saying, "We want to have a proper debate about the level that artificial surfaces should be used. The results of this survey say the players in the Premiership don’t want to play on it."
Fraser did acknowledge the role a synthetic surface can play in local community use and as a revenue stream for smaller clubs saying, “When they are being used day in, day out for community use, that’s fantastic but that means the surface on a Saturday isn’t as good as they do deteriorate quicker.
“So we need to open up a proper debate and club owners and decision-makers have to listen to what the players are saying. They have voted in numbers to say they don’t like artificial surfaces and that is something that should be looked at.”
Then yesterday, newly knighted Sir Kenny Dalglish weighed into the debate via his column in the Sunday Post. Again whilst acknowledging the revenue generation side to the pitches, Sir Kenny is clearly another advocate for natural surfaces. He concluded his piece by saying "My own personal view is that nothing will ever beat playing on grass. That’s what football should be played on."
Now to be fair to Hamilton Academical, they did release a statement the day after the survey results came out which said they are investing in a new Greenfields MX pitch to replace their controversial stinker. Described by themselves as a "FIFA-approved, state-of-the-art, 3G pitch", the new surface represents a £750,000 investment. Hamilton's head groundsman William Watson said, “We have left no stone unturned in our drive to bring the best playing surface available to Hamilton Accies."
Presuming there isn't an outright ban on artificial surfaces in Scotland, this could well be the simple solution to the terrible reputation which they are currently suffering from - build better ones!
If as the manufacturers state, the technology behind them is improving all the time, clubs who want to use them should at least be obliged to keep up to date with the very best available. Surfaces shouldn't be allowed to deteriorate and underperform as they clearly have this season at Hamilton.
Most in the industry, however much they agree with Sir Kenny that football should be played grass, would probably accept that synthetic pitches in one form or another are here to stay. Indeed, the likelihood is that they will become more prevalent in the future. That being the case, minimum standard rules should be enforced much more keenly.