Tuesday 12 November 2019

MLS must get rid of artificial pitches to join top leagues, warns Keane

According to the Ireland captain, quality plummets by 30pc by moving away from traditional grass pitches.
According to the Ireland captain, quality plummets by 30pc by moving away from traditional grass pitches.

John Fallon

STEVEN GERRARD and Frank Lampard can expect to play on the same artificial pitches that Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry both despise when they report for duty in the Major League Soccer this year.

Keane, the MLS Player of the Year following another season of success for LA Galaxy, has long derided the prevalence of synthetic surfaces, while Henry only agreed in November to grace New England Revolution's Gillette Stadium astro surface because it marked his swansong before retirement.

According to the Ireland captain, quality plummets by 30pc by moving away from traditional grass pitches, yet American Football's status as the sport of choice Stateside prevents the problem taking priority in the eyes of the money-men.

"Artificial are the worst pitches that you can possibly play on as a professional footballer in terms of injury and quality," blasted Keane. "The quality easily goes down by 25 or 30pc.

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"It dries up as well. It's like playing on this (points to wooden floor), with the ball bouncing up and down. It's that bounce where it would take three or four times to control a ball instead of just one.

"But there's big business involved and you've got teams like Seattle Sounders who play where the American football team, Seahawks, do.

"Because Seattle get 60,000 fans at their games Massachusetts I can't see them building a new stadium that would be smaller.

"There's more money in the American football than MLS, so they'll stay artificial for a while unless they and Portland (Timbers) move to new stadiums.

"The MLS is going to get much bigger, especially with the new teams from Orlando and New York entering next season and the players they're bringing in.

"However, if the MLS wants to grow to be one of the biggest leagues in the world, they have to get rid of the artificial pitches."

Keane has lent his support to the clutch of women's teams taking a case against FIFA for hosting this year's World Cup entirely on artificial surfaces.

Ireland may not have qualified but their manager is furious at the decision.

"Would FIFA play a men's World Cup on turf? No, they wouldn't," said Sue Ronan. "It's crazy s Massachusetts tuff to play it on turf but, sadly, I can't see the case being successful because it's ongoing for over a year now.

"They've said Canada couldn't host the World Cup without artificial pitches, but then don't award the tournament to Canada."

Irish Independent

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