SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s players’ union has joined Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat in denouncing the “dangerous” Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) pitch after a player suffered a knee injury during an A-League match against Sydney FC on Saturday night.
Midfielder Terry Antonis fell to the ground untouched on the edge of the cricket square during a 2-1 loss for his side in a clash between the last two Australian champions.
The iconic ground is being used for football codes while the neighbouring Sydney Football Stadium is re-vamped and has already attracted criticism after it was torn up during a rugby match.
“It was dangerous, first and foremost,” Muscat told reporters.
“To ask players to come and work under those conditions is unacceptable. It might be a serious injury as a result from it. And for players to go out onto that, whatever it’s called, is a disgrace.”
Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) called for an independent investigation into how the match was allowed to go ahead given the “deplorable state” of the pitch, which the body said posed a “clear danger” to “player safety”.
“The players confirmed with us last night that they were not consulted at any stage on whether or not the match should proceed, notwithstanding the clear issues that the pitch presented to their livelihoods,” chief executive John Didulica said in a statement.
“The PFA will … recommend two clear resolutions for adoption. Firstly, that FFA immediately commission an independent investigation into the process undertaken to approve last night’s match as being fit for play.
“Secondly, endorse a motion that players will no longer play on surfaces unacceptably compromised by a cricket wicket.”
Football Federation Australia (FFA) will meet with Sydney FC and the Sydney Cricket Ground management on Monday to discuss the condition of the playing surface.
“If we’re not confident that the ground will improve significantly then alternate venues would be sought in the future for Sydney FC home matches,” A-League head Greg O’Rourke said in a statement.
“Whilst FFA understands the current demands on the surface…it appears that the needs of our code around surface condition may not be able to be met, despite the best intentions of all parties.”
O’Rourke also said they would review the decision to play Saturday’s game.
Sydney FC, whose victory kept them second in the A-League, are scheduled to host league leaders Perth Glory at the ground on April 18.
“The pitch clearly wasn’t up to the standards required for professional football and we are working with the SCG Trust and FFA to assess its suitability to host our game against Perth in 11 days’ time,” said Sydney FC chief executive Danny Townsend.
“All options are on the table, including moving the game, and those discussions are already underway.”
Some 3,000 square metres of turf at the ground were replaced last month after huge divots came up during a rugby union match between the New South Wales Waratahs and Queensland Reds.
The Sydney Roosters rugby league team have also used the ground and the various codes have varied the layout of the pitch in order to mitigate the impact of the three different types of grass on the surface.
The SCG has hosted test cricket since 1882 and was the venue for hundreds of rugby league and union matches before the SFS was completed in 1988. It has also been the home of the Sydney Swans Australian Rules team since 1982.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, additional reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Andrew Both)