If PFA Scotland want us to rip up our pitch, they can give us £1 million | Livingston boss Gary Holt comes out swinging after petition is launched to ban artificial surfaces in the Premiership

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

GARY HOLT has launched a blistering attack on PFA Scotland, telling the players’ union that if they want Livingston to rip up their artificial pitch then they should cough up £1 million to pay for it.

The 45-year-old reacted with utter disdain to the petition announced on Thursday which called for a total ban on plastic surfaces in the Premiership, backed by every club out-with Livi, Kilmarnock and Hamilton, who all utilise astro-turf.

Holt is adamant the Lions have absolutely no intention of bowing to the pressure, emphasising that their 4G pitch at the Tony Macaroni adheres to the standard demanded by the game’s governing body FIFA.

He is also keen to point out that international football is regularly played on artificial surfaces, as was this season’s Champions League clash between Young Boys and Juventus in Switzerland.

“I’m aware of the petition, but I’m not interested in what it says. I don’t give two hoots,” he said. “We haven’t broken any rules, we didn’t stick two fingers up to people and say: ‘we’re putting this in, like it or lump it’. Research was done and standards were met.

“If FIFA say it is allowed, then that’s that. World Cup qualifiers are played on it, Champions League games are played on it. If someone tells us that it isn’t allowed, then fine. But that isn’t the case and it never will be, so just stop moaning about it.

“Are PFA Scotland going to get FIFA to change their rules? Never going to happen.”

Kilmarnock boss Steven Clarke recently claimed that it would cost around £10 million to convert Rugby Park’s artificial turf back to grass and, when asked what it would cost Livingston, Holt was defiant.

“What would it cost to rip it up? Let me put it this way: we’re not going to,” he continued.

“We won’t do that just become some folk don’t like it. There are plenty of things I don’t like in football but it doesn’t mean I’ll demand they are changed.

“If they [PFA Scotland] want to do it then fine, give us the £1 million. We’ll put in a grass pitch if they pay for it.”

Holt is similarly irked by claims that plastic pitches endanger the safety of players, suggesting those claims remain totally apocryphal until detailed studies are done.

He points to the fact his squad train on a 4G surface four days a week and play every second Saturday with little signs of wear and tear.

“Show me the stats about injuries, show me the figures,” he continued. “Don’t just come out and say ‘stiffness’. Holy s***, I was stiff after every game I ever played. If you put a shift in then you damn well should be stiff.

“You are not telling that a player who plays 90 minutes on plastic suddenly can’t walk on Monday or Tuesday.

“Our boys are training on it every single day and then playing on it on a Saturday and we’re not concerned by injuries. It’s a total cop-out because they don’t like it. Fine, I can’t change their opinion – but they can’t do anything about it.”

In a barb at the PFA, he added: “It’s just something else to moan about, something else for them to chunter about. There are bigger problems in Scottish football than three teams having astro-turf in the Premiership.

“We’ve had meetings about VAR , so let’s get that funded first. I don’t see the PFA moaning about that . . . no, it’s ‘astro pitches aren’t very good’. What a load of s****.”

Indeed, Holt is adamant Livingston’s surface has been a positive addition for the club, youngsters and the wider community.

“People moan that there are not enough pitches at grassroots, not enough facilities for kids and we need more astro pitches,” he added. “Well, hang on a minute…

“Our pitch is very busy with community use. It’s in use all day, all night and that’s exactly the way it should be. I’m fed up with people focusing on the negatives and moaning about it.

“When all the frost came in, we didn’t have a single training session off. We trained at the exact same time, every day. Brushed it off and, bang, away we go.

“We weren’t scraping about looking for an astro because our training pitches were frozen. I’m sure most clubs in Scotland that have grass training pitches were using astro at that time. And when it happens again, they will again.

“Look at grass pitches around the country, even some in the Premiership, and try to tell me that they are acceptable to play on. FIFA aren’t changing, so get on with it.”

 
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