Livingston 'could face £2.5m bill' if artificial pitches banned

David Martindale doesn't believe the surface gives his side any major advantage.

Livingston manager David Martindale insists that the club would face substantial costs and an impact to the women’s and youth teams if any ban on artificial surfaces was to come into effect.

The Almondvale club is one of two Premiership sides to have an artificial pitch, though Kilmarnock have said that they intend to replace theirs with grass within the next two years.

Though it has been reported that a ban on artificial surfaces in the top flight is to be introduced, STV understands that while the subject has been an ongoing topic between clubs for a number of months, commissioning a report into the subject has been put forward as an idea.

Martindale says he understands the desire for all league games to be played on grass pitches but the reality is different for a club of Livingston’s size and budget.

“If you come in to Livingston and you ask anyone at the club, we would rather have a grass park,” he said. “Of course we would.

“But this stadium is getting used by the first team on a daily basis and there are games on a Saturday. Between the women’s teams and the academy we’ve got roughly 300-400 individuals using this park on a weekly basis.

“Ideally we want a grass park but then we’ve not got any training facilities or anywhere to train. There’s a lot of hidden costs.”

The manager believes that the cost of replacing the pitch in the Tony Macaroni Arena and creating a training facility with artificial grass outside the stadium would be high and unjustifiable.

“We’ve never had training facilities,” he said. “We used to train out the back but the park there is not fit for purpose, if I’m honest.

“I’ve had some small discussions with [the club hierarchy] and they’re kind of saying ‘What’s the projections?’.

“I’ve got a construction background and half an idea, and I think we would be looking at about £2m or £2.5m to take an artificial surface, put it round the back, but still use the stadium as our primary office that we work from on a daily basis, then change the artificial park to grass.

“Our overall turnover on a yearly basis is somewhere around £3m so you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do the figures.”

Martindale also voiced his concern that while he believes the current situation at Livingston “makes perfect sense”, there is a danger of “sporting elitism” effectively pricing some clubs out of top flight football.

He also argued against the suggestion that his side benefits in terms of results and pointed out that the surface is considered adequate for the women’s game and youth football.

“I do think we’ve got to be careful that it’s not becoming sporting elitism in terms of clubs with money being the ones that are able to afford to do these things, being the ones that are getting favoured,” he said.

“I think it’s got to come down to sporting performances and sporting integrity. For me that comes before the elite in sporting finances.

“I get that people are moaning about the product on the park but I don’t really buy into the artificial surface giving a better advantage.

“I think 95-100% of the teams in this league are better at home. If we beat a big team at home it’s because of the artificial surface. If we get beat by a team at home, it’s nothing to do with the surface.

“If we win a game away from home, it’s nothing to do with the artificial surface. So I think we’ve got to be careful.

“Most women’s teams, most ‘B’ teams, most academy teams play on artificial surfaces. So are we at the stage where it’s ok for the women’s teams and the kids to play on artificial surfaces but not for the first team?”

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