LIVINGSTON manager Gary Holt has hit back at critics of his club’s plastic pitch after a petition was lodged yesterday by PFA Scotland calling on artificial surfaces to be outlawed, brandishing the move ‘a load of s***e’.

Every top-flight player in Scotland outwith Livingston, Hamilton and Kilmarnock – who all have artificial playing surfaces – signed the petition to rid the Premiership of plastic pitches.

Holt argues though that his club haven’t broken any rules, and that if World Cup qualifiers and Champions League matches can be played on such pitches, then it should be good enough for the Scottish Premiership too.

And he says if the Professional Footballer’s Association don’t like it, then they can stump up the £1million to have their pitch ripped up and replaced with a grass surface.

“I’m aware of the petition, but I’m not interested in what it says,” Holt said. “I don’t give two hoots.

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

"We won’t [rip it up] 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 dismissed player concerns over injuries, saying that anecdotal evidence is not enough to justify outlawing the pitches.

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

“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 [video assistant referees], 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***e.”

Ziggy Gordon of Hamilton agrees that until there is concrete evidence of a heightened risk of injury from playing on the surfaces, he is happy to take to the astroturf.

"I need to look after myself,” Gordon said. “All players need to look after themselves in terms of health.

"If a survey came out determining that there is a higher or a lower risk of injury or players' health then, of course, I think Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Livingston would appreciate such information.

"The fact of the matter is there has not been any survey that has come out to determine whether there is higher or lesser risk of injury.

"I can only speak about myself. I have had no problems with it so far. Maybe in 10/15 years' time I will but maybe I will have a problem with the grass pitches.

"I have actually had two MCL (medial collateral ligament) injuries and both happened on grass."

On the other side of the argument are the likes of Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson, who believes that the concerns of players should not be dismissed, and that grass should be mandatory to avoid short-changing supporters.

“I think in your top division it needs to be played in grass,” Robinson said. “It is a better spectacle for the fans, and the players don’t like it [on artificial pitches].

“You take a risk playing some players on it because they might be out for a few weeks after it. From my point of view, if we want to take the game forward we should play on grass.”

Robinson understands the financial considerations behind artificial surfaces, but he would like an even playing field for all teams in the division.

“We spent a lot of money on our pitch, that’s money I could have put into our transfer budget,” he said. “We feel that is the right way to go. In terms of finances, I can understand why clubs do it, but for me I think it should be the same rules for every club and that is grass.

“No matter what people say, if you train on it every day you become accustomed to it. The ball maybe doesn’t run as freely as it would on grass as well.

“People in England can’t get their head around playing on plastic pitches in the top league. You have to listen to what players are saying, and if they are saying they don’t enjoy it then we have to listen.

“I wouldn’t say English people think the league is Mickey Mouse when they see plastic pitches, but they don’t understand it.

“I am a fan of Scottish football and I praise it all the time, but it is an aspect we have to look at. We can’t vilify any club for doing it, but I would like to see it phased out over time.”

Carl McHugh agrees with his manager that the quality of football is adversely affected by playing on artificial pitches.

“I think everyone would rather the league was all grass pitches,” he said. “I’ve been up here a few years now and you just get on with it, but it’s not ideal.

“If you watch the games on TV you rarely see a good match on a plastic pitch. As a professional you just get on with it and play to the conditions but if we had all grass pitches it would definitely help the quality.

“It’s also unfair on players who can’t play on artificial pitches because it affects problems they’ve had with knee injuries, etc. With three clubs this year playing on plastic that’s a lot of games they’re ruled out of.

“In England all 92 senior clubs are not allowed to have a plastic pitch and there’s a reason for that. I think we all agree that games are better to watch when they’re on grass.

“It’s better for the product of the Scottish game, for the people watching it as well as those playing on it.”