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Many leagues are just about to start up again. For many footballers' associations this is a good moment to take the lead of the English PFA, the Dutch VVCS and the Australian PFA and start their own pitch test. The Norwegian players’ union NISO will be starting one at the start of the 2012 season, and from now on the Austrian VdF will be keeping track each week of what the players think of the various pitches.

 

The system used by the Dutch players’ union VVCS is simple and effective.

 

VVCS chairman Danny Hesp: ‘I have all the mobile numbers of the 36 captains in the two professional divisions in the Netherlands. On Monday or Tuesday I send the captains who have played an away game a text message, asking them what they thought of the pitch. They can choose from the following options: 1 = poor, 2 = unsatisfactory, 3 = good, 4 = very good, and 5 = excellent.’

 

‘I address them by their first name, and also refer to the club against which they played,’ Hesp continues. ‘It has to be a bit personal, I don't send them all the same neutral text message. Everyone always replies quickly, I only have to send the occasional reminder to 3 or 4 of them, at the most. All told, it takes up about half an hour of my time each week.’

 

The results provide a good picture of the quality of the pitches, and also of the players’ opinions on artificial grass. ‘The older artificial grass pitches in the Netherlands get a particularly low score,’ says Hesp. ‘But the new artificial grass pitches sometimes get better marks than natural pitches which are in a poor condition.’

 

A pitch test provides a wide range of benefits: The test always gets a large amount of positive publicity in the press each year. It also stimulates the pride of the groundsmen, who naturally want their pitches to be ranked as high as possible in the competition. The attention paid to the pitches promotes awareness among players and clubs of the pitches, thereby contributing to quality improvement.

 

In England, the STRI (Sports Turf Research Institute), which works together with the PFA, even takes action if a ranking falls below an acceptable level at a certain moment – usually in winter. In such cases, the club is contacted to ask what is the matter, and if necessary to offer assistance.

 

And, of course, at the end of the season, the winning club wins a prize.

 

‘Last year we even had a shield made which was the same as the normal champions shield,’ says Hesp. ‘It was eventually won by the pitch of PSV, which finished a disappointing third in the normal league. The reaction of the PSV fans was that we still won a shield!’

 

FIFPro and FIFPro’s Technical Committee is hoping that as many players’ unions as possible start pitch competitions. If you have any questions, you can put them to Danny Hesp (d.hesp@vvcs.nl) of the VVCS or to Tijs Tummers (tijs@fifpro.org), secretary of the FIFPro Technical Committee.

 

 

 

Last year's winners in The Netherlands: PSV (1st division) and RKC Waalwijk (2nd division)