Andrew Barrowman exclusive: Raith Rovers supremo says there is 'no imminent ban' on Scottish Premiership teams having plastic pitches
With second-placed Raith – who have had an artificial 3G playing surface since 2018 – currently neck and neck on points with leaders Dundee United in the Scottish Championship, hopes are high among the Kirkcaldy side’s fans that this could be the season their favourites get back into the Scottish top flight for the first time since 1997.
But, if national news stories this week are to be believed, this could come at a major cost, with the SPFL’s Competitions Working Group reportedly tipped to imminently make a recommendation to the league’s board about a prohibition on 3G surfaces currently used by top flight Kilmarnock and Livingston, as well as Raith and their Championship rivals Airdrieonians, in the Scottish Premiership.
Killie have pledged to have a replacement grass surface installed at Rugby Park in time for season 2025/26, while Livingston manager David Martindale conceded this week that plastic parks would likely be banned in the Scottish top flight within three years, while stating his concerns that such work at Almondvale Stadium could cost Livi at least £1 million.
Despite these revelations, Barrowman told the Fife Free Press: “I would suggest that what you have read in the press is false.
"We had the SPFL AGM yesterday (Monday) as an opportunity to share the room with all clubs – including the ones that have an artificial pitch – and I would suggest the timelines are wrong in that particular article. I did read it myself and I don’t think that’s completely factual.
"One you’ve got to decide if that (banning artificial pitches in the top flight) is the right course and then the clubs have got to vote on it.
"So there's a few stages before it gets to become reality.
“I’m not concerned at all. We’ll deal with it as and when it comes.
"It’s nothing more than conversations at the minute, fact finding I would call it probably more than anything.
"So there are no concerns from our part. It’s something that may come up in the future but it also may not.
"Paying for any new pitch is not something we’ve even thought about costing.
"I know it would be a pretty heavy fee, not just in terms of replacing and relaying, but it’s the ongoing maintenance as well.
"We obviously live in Scotland which is not a climate conducive to growing anything really. Grass is no different.
"I think you’ll find that the top level clubs have artificial UV lighting or whatever they call it these days which obviously comes at a huge ongoing expense in terms of power. So that wouldn’t be an option for a club like Raith Rovers.”
Should Raith achieve promotion this season, whether by winning the league or going up via the play-offs, Barrowman has great ambitions for the club going forward.
He said: “We have plans for not just the pitch. I think there’s other facilities within Stark’s Park that are going to need updated regardless if we’re in the Premier League.
"Moving to the Premier League would probably expedite some of those facilities that are not fit for purpose.
"If it got to that stage and the rules were that we weren’t allowed a plastic pitch then we would deal with that at the time and make plans accordingly.
"I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight thing. I don’t think that would be fair on anyone.
"I think there would be a period of grace. I don’t think it would be sprung on clubs over a two or three-year period.”
When asked what benefits a plastic pitch brings Raith Rovers, Barrowman added: “I think it’s plain to see. It’s not just in terms of what happens with the first team – obviously it’s a training facility as well – which would mean we’d have to find alternative arrangements.
"But it’s probably bigger than that. It’s more likely to affect the local community more severely than us as a football club. Our community club will use the pitch 90% of the time.
"In terms of the first team, we actually use it a small percentage of its entire use.”