As part of its vision to promote the safest and best sports surfaces possible, sports surfaces testing and consultancy company Sports Labs came up with an innovative way of collecting information from the people who matter most – the players.
The Scotland-based company developed a ground-breaking player survey app called PitchRater, which allows players to give feedback on pitch quality. Designed to work on all smartphones, the app was made available to professional players in Scotland, with each player being given a unique login.
The players were then able to rate every away surface they played on, covering a total of 42 stadiums – of which 29 had natural or hybrid surfaces and 13 were fitted with synthetic surfaces.
Used throughout the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the results of the data were then aired on news channels such as STV, BBC and Sky Sports, generating a healthy discussion on pitch improvements across the board.
Players taking part in the rating system were given 10 technical questions, derived from the professional players themselves in 2017. In the first season alone, 3,593 feedback forms were completed, resulting in 43,116 questions being answered by 572 players. There was an average of 86 feedback reports for each venue.
Data was interpreted for overall surface rating, consistency, stability, ball speed, performance affecting criteria, speed of play, firmness, tiredness and injuries.
The players voted Forthbank Stadium, home of League 2 club Stirling Albion, as the best surface to play on. The natural grass pitch, which is maintained by groundsman Graeme Glen, received a 4.43 rating out of a possible 5.0.
Sports Labs now plans to use the data collected by PitchRater to advise manufacturers so they can develop new, improved turf systems. Further a grounds person’s training seminar was held promote knowledge transfer amongst the various venues.
“If we improve the surface, we improve the game,” says Sports Labs’ Eric O’Donnell.
“The plan is to continue data-collecting using the players, in order to align the testing’s specifications and product developments accordingly.
“The app has now been used by UEFA for UEFA Champions League and Europa League venues, with the referee, venue director and match delegates taking part in the feedback exercise. We hope to release it to the players across UEFA competitions next year.”