Field of screams: PFA backs calls to review A-League pitches

Professional Footballers Australia has backed Mark Milligan’s comments on the standard of A-League pitches, insisting it’s all about growing the game.

Earlier this week, the Melbourne Victory midfielder demanded independent assessments of A-League pitches.

His call comes in the wake of the club’s match at Adelaide Oval last month and ahead of next week’s match at North Sydney Oval – both hard surfaces recently used for cricket.

Milligan is a PFA Executive member and his comments were highlighted at Monday’s PFA Annual General Meeting where a number of key issues were raised, including pitches.

Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo following the AGM, PFA chief executive Adam Vivian reiterated Milligan’s stance, but explained it was for the growth of the game.

“The players understand the commercial necessities to play games in other locations, particularly the North Sydney Oval game,” Vivian told FourFourTwo.

“The players want to reward the North Sydney fans with a great spectacle, but if the pitch isn’t up to standard the product is going to be diluted and invariably people won’t take the game and league as seriously.

“We want to attract these supporters. Some may be passive and we want to convert them.”

The round two Adelaide United-Melbourne Victory match at Adelaide Oval was roundly criticised as a spectacle. In addition, several players pulled up sore following the game.

The negative commentary would have been worse had it not been for two late goals which created a dramatic end to the game.

More venues not normally used for football are likely to host games this season, with several regional fixtures yet to be confirmed.

Central Coast want to play a game at Manly’s Brookvale Oval, while Melbourne Victory will play a game at Geelong’s Skilled Stadium against Perth Glory on January 2.

The PFA are keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s nightmare match in Albury where Perth Glory had a gruelling travel schedule via plane and bus to play Melbourne Heart in oppressive 40-degree heat.

Vivian said the PFA supported the concept of the regional fixtures but players wanted more of a say in how it was rolled out.

“It continues to be an issue,” Vivian said. “It’s important they’re afforded the facilities that come with being a professional athlete, like anyone in their workplace.

“The players are all too aware of the importance of engaging fans to, one, promote the game and, two, promote themselves.

“It adds a level of complexity again in terms of scheduling. It certainly did last year with Perth, in terms of how they had to travel to Albury.

“The players would like more of a voice in terms of how it’s executed. They want to maximise these opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Vivian said one of the big issues up for discussion at Monday’s AGM was the establishment of a world class workplace for players.

The players have commissioned workplace health and safety expert Paul Deakin, from the FCB Group, to better inform and provide recommendations on the current health and safety standards at A-League clubs’ training and playing facilities.

The PFA wants a tripartite relationship with clubs and the FFA towards improving standards, pointing to examples such as wheelie bins being used as ice baths at Melbourne Heart or a reportedly unhygienic change-room facility at one of Adelaide United’s occasionally used facilities, which could potentially cause injury or illness affecting a player's profession.

“It’s little things like saying you need to invest in a purpose-built ice bath but it’s all with a view to potentially identifying some long-term gains,” Vivian said.

“Over a 20-year period, we’re looking at some purpose-built facilities which would play into the hands of having boutique stadiums and facilities designed for football.”