Crusaders have hit back at claims that their new artificial pitch poses a danger to players.
Glentoran striker Gary Hamilton blasted the synthetic surface in an interview in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph, claiming that it played a part in the ankle injury which he sustained during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Seaview — the first match played since the new ‘4G’ pitch was laid.
The Crues have reacted angrily to such suggestions, but board member Mark Langhammer admitted that research has shown more non-contact injuries do occur on such surfaces, although he felt those sustained by Hamilton and team-mate Daryl Fordyce has been caused by ‘robust’ tackles and not the pitch.
“Gary Hamilton’s comments that the new Seaview 4G surface was dangerous are unwarranted,” said Langhammer.
“Independent medical studies demonstrate that there is “very little difference in the incidence, nature and causes of injuries observed during games played on artificial turf compared with those played on grass.”
“Typically there may be slightly more non-contact injuries and less contact injuries. In the case of the injuries to both Gary Hamilton and Daryl Fordyce, both occurred after robust physical challenges.
“We take seriously the issue of player welfare. Our club doctor, Dr Neil Heron will be monitoring injuries over the course of a year, not one match and comparing these to data and studies undertaken by FIFA’s Medical Research & Assessment Centre.
“To blame these on the pitch is a bit too easy.
“Likewise, the pitch got the blame for the Crusaders goal, when TV replays clearly show that the bounce was regular — and the goalkeeper just missed it.
Langhammer has been pro-active in making Crusaders the first club in Northern Ireland to put down one of the 4G pitches and he has also been working for some time now on guaranteeing the funding for a new stadium on the Shore Road.
When that happens the new pitch at Seaview will be lifted and re-laid at the new site — which will be just a few hundred yards away.
The problem with Saturday’s game was that work on laying the surface was on-going until shortly before kick-off.
“The pitch at Seaview met all Irish FA rules and met three stringent tests on the carpet, the in-fill, and the construction methodology,” said Langhammer.
“Of course it would be lovely to allow the pitch three or four weeks to bed in before starting competitive fixtures, however, Crusaders had already gone seven weeks without a home gate and had stretched ourselves to the limit to install the pitch on time.”
The Seaview surface was due to host its second game tonight, but H&W Welders will face Kilmore Rec in the semi-final of the Steel and Sons Cup at Lisburn Distillery’s New Grosvenor.
The Welders currently sit second in Championship 2, while Kilmore are mid-table in Division 1A of the Amateur League.
The second semi-final between Ards and Downpatrick will be played next Wednesday.