Demerits for pitch defects

Just a quick note on the possible use of demerits, in particular, for determining if a product, in this case a natural turf sports pitch, has defects (most will have some defects to some degree – and it is the degree of defect that is the key here) and more importantly if it is ‘fit for purpose’.

The current approach for assessing sports pitches is to use Performance Quality Standards to provide an objective measure of what has been produced.

The evaluation though of the individual standards is achieved by allocating points for each level of compliance and the points totalled to see if the overall figure is on the whole representative of the stated level of quality for a pitch and is within a certain range of the available points for the desired standard (which at the moment there are three standards: called ‘High; ‘Standard; and ‘Basic’). This is quite a logical and easy system of evaluation to calculate.

Note: “The term ‘on the whole’, is defined as being within no less than 85% of the optimum number of available points.” (IOG Performance Quality Standards Football, 2004, p.36)

There is, however, no particular emphasis on what is meant by a defect, especially core safety features of the product. At the moment each criterion is given 5, 3, 1, or zero points for compliance with the different parameters that are stated for the different quality standards.

If a provider’s attention is focused on product defects (well the core ones) then more attention might be given to ensuring adequate resources (staff, training, materials, equipment) along with active management of a pitch are provided. By active management I mean managing usage and cancelling a match if the conditions are such that unacceptable damage to the playing surface would arise if a game went ahead.

I made some notes on one page from the IOG Performance Quality Standards Football booklet (June 2004) to start to develop my idea.

Demerits for PQS

Demerits for PQS

A starting position might be that 100 points are given for a pitch and achievement/non-achievement of certain standards are given a merit of +1 or demerit of -1; with achievement of the desired standard being 0, no deductions or additions.

If a high standard pitch is to be provided then it might be the minimum number of points needed is say 90; a standard pitch might be 80 points, whilst a basic is 70 points as a minimum. Or whatever is deemed suitable upon further investigation into this concept.

Certain defects, such as safety features could be weighted as high, say – 80 points. This would ensure that even if the rest of the product is excellent and gained lots of extra points it could never exceed whatever the minimum is for a basic pitch, meaning it is inadequate and therefore not safe to play on.

Any provider of a playing surface must ensure that they provide a safe system of work, which means a safe playing surface as this is where the work is taking place – it just so happens that the work being expended is that of physical activity in the form of a game of football, in contrast to different types of work activity.

Some features, especially those that impact on safety, but aren’t critical defects in themselves, could be weighted medium or low, with higher demerit point values being applied.

Informed debate would need to take place to determine what demerits should be applied, as for example, playing on a relatively bare pitch in soft conditions is not particularly dangerous if the surface is relatively even (i.e. without rabbit holes and the like) and there is reasonable grip from a suitable root system to help maintain stability. The playing experience would be pretty awful though. The demerit system might not make the pitch inadequate from a safety aspect, but from a playing experience, presentational and technical turfcultural perspective the defects are such that it would be graded as inadequate.

How much of a defect is line marking? If it isn’t marked out in accordance with the laws of the game then the game should be postponed. This feature would therefore attract a high demerit weighting – possibly.

Just a bit of food for thought.

Chris Gray, 28th June 2017