David Martindale, manager of the Scottish football club Livingston, says a ban on synthetic turf in the highest Scottish football league could cost the club GBP 2.5 million. He also predicts that it will impact to the women’s and youth teams.
Such ban has become feasible following the announcement by Kilmarnock FC that it is considering installing a 100% turf or hybrid pitch within the next two years.
Martindale says he understands the desire for all league games to be played on grass pitches but the reality is different for a club of Livingston’s size and budget.
“If you come in to Livingston and you ask anyone at the club, we would rather have a grass park,” he said. “Of course we would.
“But this stadium is getting used by the first team on a daily basis and there are games on a Saturday. Between the women’s teams and the academy we’ve got roughly 300-400 individuals using this park on a weekly basis.
“Ideally we want a grass park but then we’ve not got any training facilities or anywhere to train. There’s a lot of hidden costs.”
Cost are unjustifiable
The manager believes that the cost of replacing the pitch in the Tony Macaroni Arena and creating a training facility with synthetic turf outside the stadium would be high and unjustifiable.
“We’ve never had training facilities,” he said. “We used to train out the back but the park there is not fit for purpose, if I’m honest.
“I’ve had some small discussions with the club hierarchy and they’re kind of saying ‘What’s the projections?’.
“I’ve got a construction background and half an idea, and I think we would be looking at about GBP 2m or GBP 2.5m to take a synthetic turf surface, put it round the back, but still use the stadium as our primary office that we work from on a daily basis, then change the park to grass.
“Our overall turnover on a yearly basis is somewhere around GBP 3m so you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do the figures.”
Danger of ‘sporting elitism’
Martindale also voiced his concern that while he believes the current situation at Livingston “makes perfect sense”, there is a danger of “sporting elitism” effectively pricing some clubs out of top flight football.
He also argued against the suggestion that his side benefits in terms of results and pointed out that the surface is considered adequate for the women’s game and youth football.
“I do think we’ve got to be careful that it’s not becoming sporting elitism in terms of clubs with money being the ones that are able to afford to do these things, being the ones that are getting favoured,” he said.
“I think it’s got to come down to sporting performances and sporting integrity. For me that comes before the elite in sporting finances.
“I get that people are moaning about the product on the park but I don’t really buy into the artificial surface giving a better advantage.
“I think 95-100% of the teams in this league are better at home. If we beat a big team at home it’s because of the artificial surface. If we get beat by a team at home, it’s nothing to do with the surface.
“If we win a game away from home, it’s nothing to do with the artificial surface. So I think we’ve got to be careful.