Posted by John Beech on September 5, 2009
Or, to be more accurate, U2 fans’ rubbish. Yes, before you start flaming me, the apostrophe of the headline marks a Saxon genitive rather than a contraction. Well, if an academic can’t enjoy a little academic joke on his blog… But I should not josh – this is no laughing matter.
This posting is about the outcomes of a gig the popular beat combo played at the Don Valley Stadium, currently home to the exilde Millers, on the evening of 20 August. Two days later, Rotherham were at home to Rochdale. Speaking after the game to BBC Sheffield, Rochdale manager Keith Hill complained bitterly about the state of the pitch, assistant manager David Flitcroft reported that shards of glass and two nails had been found on the pitch, and the latter pointed out that “players’ safety becomes an issue” (1). Flitcroft also said “Obviously, there are a lot of obligations and I think referees and clubs are scared of getting called off now because of the money implications and the revenue.”
Rotherham United posted a vigorous response to Rochdale’s complaint on the club website (2) on the 27th, making clear what both Don Valley staff and Rotherham United staff had done between the concert and the game in terms of pitch maintenance. There is no statement on the Rochdale website as I write, and the Don Valley Stadium website is still happily running with “One of Britain’s premier athletics stadiums was transformed into a spectacular outdoor entertainment venue as global rock stars U2 landed in Sheffield and sent the city’s economy into a spin…” (3).
On 1st. September Rotherham hosted Huddersfield in the Carling Cup. The latter’s manager Lee Clark complained to BBC Radio Leeds “Professional football shouldn’t be played on that pitch” (4), although why he felt it was alright for amateurs to play was not made clear. He said of the Don Valley pitch “It was so uneven and it’s very easy to twist ankles, slip over and cause injuries“.
Several things strike me as a result of these events. Firstly, it would be interesting to know the views of players from the three teams – this is after all an issue about the safety of their working environment. If things are as bad as they are reported, surely the PFA should be taking up the issue.
Secondly, it draws into focus the problematic nature of multi-user stadiums. I can’t immediately recall any examples of similar problems – is this my failing memory, a one-off, or a problem so common that no-one bothers to report it?
Finally, in a broader context of health & safety, why is it that the sea of saliva that today’s pitches have become is never discussed in terms of health and safety at work? If a single player enters the pitch with an infectious disease and then spits at just one point in ninety minutes (and I simply do not believe that that has never happened), twenty-one other players are at risk. Direct spitting at a player by another player certainly rears its ugly head every now and again, but it seems to be dealt with as a breach of cultural and social norms (and I’ve no problem with that), but not as a potentially dangerous hygiene issue (which I do have a problem with).