Four SPFL clubs have strongly criticised plans to ban artificial pitches in the Scottish Premiership, beginning in the 2026/27 season, labelling the proposal as “grossly unfair” and detrimental to the “sporting integrity” of Scottish football.

Kyogo Celtic
31st March 2024; Almondvale Stadium, Livingston, Scotland: Scottish Premiership Football, Livingston versus Celtic; Shamal George of Livingston dives at the feet of Kyogo Furuhashi of Celtic to claim the ball

Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Hamilton Academical, and Queen of the South have jointly issued a statement in opposition to the proposed ban, which would require a 9-3 majority among Premiership clubs to be implemented.

These clubs argue that the removal of artificial surfaces could inflict significant long-term damage on the Scottish game by creating substantial financial barriers for clubs aspiring to compete in the top flight. They are advocating for an alternative approach, modelled after the Dutch league, where a fund supported by clubs, like Celtic, competing in European competitions helps maintain high-quality grass pitches.

The clubs highlighted the prohibitive costs associated with high-standard grass maintenance, estimating over £750k annually, mainly due to the high energy costs of grass growth lamps. They claimed that a top-quality UEFA-approved artificial surface could be superior to a poorly maintained grass pitch, especially during the harsh Scottish winters.

They expressed concern that the decision, if passed without incorporating their suggestions, would echo past mistakes similar to the controversial 10,000-seat stadium rule, which they argue did not consider the broader impact on the Scottish football ecosystem.

In a lengthy statement, they said: [RecordSport]

“In response to the proposal to ban artificial playing surfaces in the Scottish Premiership, over the past few months we have sought constructive dialogue with both the SPFL Competitions Working Group (CWG) and directly with Scottish Premiership clubs.
“We have done so because we believe the proposal to be fundamentally flawed on a number of levels and, if approved, will cause significant long-term damage to Scottish football by undermining sporting integrity, impacting the wider game and creating huge financial entry barriers to the top league. We unreservedly support the Premiership clubs desire to ensure that playing surfaces are always of a high quality, so worked together to create what we believe to be a constructive and well-considered alternative proposal, which we are publishing today.
“We recently had the opportunity to present our ideas to both the Competitions Working Group and those Premiership clubs not involved in the CWG, and we thank them for taking the time to listen to us. We are, however, disappointed to learn that the Premiership clubs intend to proceed to a vote on a blanket ban of artificial surfaces from season 2026/27, and that none of the elements of our alternative proposal have been adopted or incorporated into their final proposal.
“We are publishing our paper today to promote a public debate on the subject. Our view is that this decision is poorly thought through, and we do not believe it is acceptable for just twelve clubs to make this decision, which could have a long-lasting and negative impact on Scottish football, as serious as the ill-fated 10,000-seat stadium rule. We believe that all clubs with the ability and ambition to reach the Premiership should be encouraged to do so, without having unnecessary barriers being created to demotivate and disincentivise them.
“Scotland is the world’s most northerly non-Arctic nation, and our climate simply isn’t always conducive to having perfect grass pitches due to high levels of rainfall, minimal sunshine, and high cloud coverage. The costs associated with achieving the highest possible standard of grass pitches, year-round, could be more than £750k per annum, with a large percentage of this attributed to the electricity required to fuel grass growth lamps. It is therefore very difficult for the majority of Scottish clubs to achieve the highest possible standard of playing surface, as it is cost prohibitive. There’s no question that a top-quality, UEFA-approved artificial surface is far superior, in every respect, than a sub-standard grass pitch, which we routinely see in the winter months of Scottish football.
“We would ask fans and supporter groups of all clubs to read our paper and to make their views known to their respective clubs. We believe our recommendations to be reasonable, practical, and proportionate to solving the issue the Premiership clubs wish to address. These include strict criteria around the age and quality of artificial pitches in the Premiership, significantly reduced usage, and a robust testing regime on a par with the standards required by UEFA for the Champions League, ensuring they always conform to the highest approved standards.
“Such criteria go far beyond quality standards currently in place for artificial surfaces, so a significant improvement in pitch quality would be achieved immediately. There are no quality standards currently in place for grass pitches in the Premiership. “Should Premiership clubs choose to go ahead and vote for a blanket ban on all artificial surfaces, we call upon them to create a fund to support any club which achieves promotion to the Premiership, to cover the cost of implementing the level of grass pitch they expect, which could cost in the region of £1.2m-£1.5m.
“The anticipated uplift in UEFA solidarity payments, currently circa £6m and expected to rise above £10m, 100% of which currently goes to Premiership clubs exclusively, would appear to be a ready-made source for the funding of such an initiative. Other countries such as Germany have already gained UEFA’s consent to distribute solidarity monies below their top league, to improve the flow of funds within their game.
“The Dutch League has also introduced a grant fund, paid for by those clubs participating in European competitions, which all clubs can apply for to ensure a higher standard of grass pitch in their top league. We call upon Scottish Premiership clubs to follow this example. Clubs with artificial surfaces have invested huge sums of money into the installation of pitches and infrastructure, at a time when the artificial pitches were fully compliant with the criteria in place. The goal posts are now being moved, with no consideration given to the consequences of such a decision on many clubs who will not get a vote on the matter.
“We believe this to be grossly unfair and contrary to the solidarity promised in 2013, when the SPFL was formed by merging the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League. Indeed, these unilateral actions are strongly reminiscent of the old SPL. Should this vote pass, we are concerned that there have been no lessons learned from past mistakes, particularly in relation to the 10,000–seat stadium rule. If this is to be the case, financial support for those clubs impacted is essential, if there is to be any semblance of sporting integrity and justice in this decision.”

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