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Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

SPL begins frozen pitches inquiry

The SPL will investigate Saturday's winter call-offs

The Scottish Premier League is writing to Kilmarnock and Motherwell to seek answers over the postponement of their weekend fixtures.

Pitch protection systems failed at Rugby Park and Fir Park and SPL secretary Iain Blair branded the situation an "embarrassment".

"We won't be able to move forward until we get all the information in," said a spokesman for the SPL.

"There has been dialogue with the clubs but that needs to be formal now."

The SPL hopes to have all its questions answered before their next board meeting on 18 December.

The criteria for top flight membership states that each club must ensure the "efficient and effective operation" of an underground heated pitch protection system.

We, like other clubs work hard to get games on but if you have a technical problem, how can you legislate for that?
Leeann Dempster
Motherwell general manager

And rule H6.6 adds that "such systems shall be fully utilised by the home club before any league match where there is a reasonable possibility of its pitch otherwise being frozen or covered in snow or ice".

Motherwell insist they did everything possible to make sure their home tie with Hearts went ahead.

Rugby Park
The Rugby Park surface failed an early pitch inspection on Saturday.

However, despite the added protection of pitch covers, a problem with their recently installed heating system left an area in one six-yard box frozen.

If the clubs are found to be in breach of SPL rules, they could face sanctions, which include the possibility of a fine.

But Motherwell general manager, Leeann Dempster hopes the authorities will take a lenient view.

"It's hard enough as it is in football without fining clubs and taking money out of the game," she told BBC Sport.

"We, like other clubs work hard to get games on but if you have a technical problem, how can you legislate for that?"

Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston has defended his club's efforts in trying to prevent their Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Aberdeen being called off.

The fixture was one of two in the SPL postponed on Saturday due to frozen pitches, the other being Motherwell's clash with Hearts.

The Scottish Premier League have written to both host clubs demanding answers as to why their undersoil heating systems failed to prevent the cancellations.

If found guilty of breaching SPL rules, both clubs could face a range of punishments, the most likely of which is a fine.

Chairman Michael Johnston claims Kilmarnock were caught out by an inaccurate weather forecast and insists the club's heating system would have to have been turned on 10 days prior to Saturday's match to prevent its postponement.

"The sub-air system blows the air into pipes under the pitch and the pipes have holes in them which allows the air to percolate up," said Johnston, who pointed out it is almost six years since the club last had to postpone a game.

"We then put ground sheets over the pitch and, with the bed of hot air, the sheets rise two feet above the pitch. That keeps the frost out.

"It is more of a frost prevention system. We had a prolonged period of frost and it was already in the ground by Saturday. Once the frost is in the ground, it is hard to get it out.

"We were waiting for that milder weather to arrive. That would have removed the frost and the pitch would be fine.

"Some milder weather did come and if it had been inspected on late Friday afternoon then the pitch would have been fine, but there was another drop in temperature overnight and the frost went back into the pitch.

"We shouldn't have relied on the weather forecast but, then, everyone does. To prevent the match being off, the system would have had to have been on for 10 days before, because it was on the Wednesday of the previous week that the hard frost arrived. It is widely acknowledged that we have the best surface in Scottish football."

Motherwell's home match against Hearts has been rescheduled for Wednesday 7 January, while Kilmarnock's game against Aberdeen, also called off on Saturday, will now be played on Tuesday 13 January.

Both matches have 7.45pm kick-offs.

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see also
McGhee upset by game postponement
06 Dec 08 |  Motherwell

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