No more cricket pitches! – PFA demand action after Big Blue marred...

No more cricket pitches! – PFA demand action after Big Blue marred by horror surface

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Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has released a stinging rebuke of the SCG’s playing surface in the wake of Saturday night’s Big Blue clash between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory; demanding an investigation and end to games on surfaces that feature a cricket pitch.

Despite Sydney FC’s late 2-1 win having major ramifications for the shape of the A-League finals – the result seemingly snuffing out any hopes Victory had of making a late run at the premiers player and Sydney now guaranteed a home final – the deplorable state of SCG’s pitch has become the major talking from Saturday evening’s Big Blue.

Playing host to several codes in recent weeks and with a cricket wicket still present on the surface, the patchwork nature of the SCG’s grass was instantly recognisable on Saturday night: the conditions presenting an extra challenge to both sets of players competing in what is supposed to be the A-League’s marquee fixture.

The hazards of such an environment were then made clear in the game’s final 15 minutes when Victory’s Terry Antonis went down, untouched, on a location identified as being on the edge of the cricket pitch.

Immediately substituted in the wake of the incident, Antonis was in visible pain on the substitutes bench in the aftermath of the incident, concerns immediately raised that the midfielder may have damaged his ACL.

Thankfully, a tweet on Sunday morning from The Australian’s Ray Gatt indicated that the injury suffered by the 25-year-old may not be as severe as initially feared.

“To ask players to come to work and work under those conditions is unacceptable,” Victory Head Coach Kevin Muscat said after the game.

“There might be a serious injury as a result from it. For players to go out on to that – whatever it’s called – is a disgrace.

“If we accept it ourselves as a code, it is part of the reason why everybody else treats us with contempt. All the other codes and everybody else treats us with contempt because we accept that ourselves.

“Instead of looking outside, let’s look at ourselves.

“That surface was not conducive to a ball rolling on it.

“First and foremost, it was dangerous.

“For the players to perform the way they did and give everybody the excitement and entertainment that they did was remarkable.”

In a strongly worded statement issued on Sunday morning, the PFA slammed the lack of consultation that had occurred ahead of the game being given the go-ahead to kick-off and called for an end to games being played on fields that feature cricket pitches.

“The players confirmed with us last night that they were not consulted at any stage on whether or not the match should proceed,” PFA Chief Executive John Didulica said.

“Notwithstanding the clear issues that the pitch presented to their livelihoods.

“Accordingly, the PFA will convene a meeting with its A-League delegates this week and recommend two clear resolutions for adoption.

“Firstly, that FFA immediately commission an independent investigation into the process undertaken to approve last night’s match as being fit for play.

“The Laws of the Game dictate this is fundamentally a decision for the referee. However, the increasing complexity of match day operations makes it inconceivable that a referee would, or should, make such a decision in isolation of stakeholders.”

“Secondly, endorse a motion that players will no longer play on surfaces unacceptably compromised by a cricket wicket.

“As demonstrated last night, cricket wickets present an unreasonable danger to the health and safety of footballers and it remains the view of the PFA that players are under no obligation to participate in matches when such risks are present. This includes the SCG.”

The incident is just the latest flashpoint in the conversation around playing surfaces in both the A-League and W-League after shards of plastic were found on the pitch at Spotless Stadium ahead of a game between Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets in November and a deplorable Epping Stadium surface was dished up for the W-League Melbourne Derby in January.

“On four occasions this season the PFA has been on the record calling for greater focus on the conditions of the pitches on which A-League and W-League players are being required to play,” Didulica continued.

“We even took the unprecedented step of sharing our annual pitch ratings survey a fortnight ago, whilst the season was still in progress, to shift focus to the dangerous drop in pitch standards across the country.”

In the wake of the incident, Sydney FC Danny Townsend indicated that Sydney FC’s fixture against Perth Glory scheduled for the SCG would likely be moved to Kogarah as a result of the maladies affecting the pitch.

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