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Rangers not so Pitch Perfect as Warburton left bemused

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It seems that Mark Warburton is not a happy bear after Alloa took the decision to change the dimensions of their pitch over a month ago.

Only now has the Rangers manager taken to the press room to voice his outrage and bemusement at Alloa following the rules of the game to change their pitch dimensions – ahead of the Ibrox side’s trip to the Indodrill this weekend.

SPFL rules back up Alloa and they have the right to reduce their pitch width to a minimum of 60m or a maximum of 68. The rulebook also states that the club can apply to change these dimensions at any time, and more than once a season but must secure written consent from the SPFL board.

Speaking to the assembled media on Thursday, Warburton hit out at Alloa, he said: “I’ve never heard that you could change the playing dimensions mid-season. It’s a difficult surface but we played well and dealt with it and trained there before.

“But now you find the width has changed significantly. It hasn’t changed by a couple of feet, it’s changed significantly. I personally find that bemusing.

“A change mid-season I just find bizarre. It’s not a problem, we’ll go there and deal with it. It’s not an excuse in any way and we’re looking forward to the game.

“Speaking to other managers as well, I’m sure they are as bemused as I am. It’s a huge change and we’re surprised it’s allowed to happen mid-season.”

He added: “Would you change the size of the goals mid-season? Would you have two referees, not one, mid-season? It’s just a personal opinion. I’ve never heard of it down south.

“It won’t change anything from our point of view and, speaking to other managers earlier in the week, some spoke about changing tactics because of it. It’s another challenge but it is a bizarre decision.”

It seems that Warburton doesn’t know the rules in Scotland, but also that of English football despite his claim of never hearing of it down south.

In the club operations section of the English Premier League rulebook: Section K – Stadium criteria and Broadcasters’ requirements.

K.20. No Club shall alter the dimensions of its pitch during the Season without the prior written
consent of the Board.

However, Warburton can be excused from knowing this as he has not managed in the English Premier League.

Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney defended the club’s decision to change the pitch dimensions, saying that Rangers did likewise under then-manager Graeme Souness in the 1980s.

Mulraney said: “Everyone knew the rules at the start of the season and if some don’t choose to read them it’s not my issue.

“We waited until midway through the season, when every club had played at our ground once, before applying to change the dimensions.

“It was magnanimous of us to wait until after our ninth home game in the league and if other clubs don’t like it, change the rules.

“We have noted the past successes of other clubs, including Rangers in Europe, in adopting such a process. If it worked for them, why shouldn’t we follow their lead?

“It’s not my fault if other clubs are not reading the rules. Alloa Athletic were not successful in the first half of the season, so why wouldn’t we want to introduce changes?”

While Rangers are bemused about Alloa following the rulebook and Mulraney defending his club, why do clubs change their pitch dimensions?

Take the example of Souness for example. In 1987, Souness scouted European Cup opponents Dynamo Kiev and with the attacking threat posed by the Ukrainian side’s two wingers, Rangers changed the dimensions of the pitch the night before the game [unlike Alloa’s month notice].

Souness later explained his decision, he said: “The pitch didn’t have to be a fixed width as long as it was above a certain minimum, so I thought: ‘Right, I’ll make it the absolute minimum.’

“On the Tuesday afternoon the Kiev players trained on the pitch when it was the normal size. On Wednesday night they came out for the match and must have been shocked to discover that, after 15 paces, they were on the touchline … it wasn’t purist stuff, but it was within the rules.”

Rangers lost the first leg in Kiev 1-0, but at Ibrox Rangers turned the tie around and won 2-1 on aggregate.

Attacking sides thrive on larger grounds with the additional space, while more defensive teams favour smaller pitches – So what is good for the goose if good for the gander then?

Or is it a tactic that can only be utilised by the club from Ibrox?

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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