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Dundee pitch problems explained as Dens Park surface in spotlight

Five Dark Blues fixtures have been called off this season due to heavy rain and now Premiership side have been hit with huge fine.

Dens ground staff relay pitch covers. Image: Ewan Bootman/SNS
Dens ground staff relay pitch covers. Image: Ewan Bootman/SNS

Dundee FC’s pitch is in the spotlight again after the SPFL hit the club with a huge fine following the Rangers fiasco.

Dee finally faced Gers at the third time of asking this week, holding the Ibrox side to a 0-0 draw.

But the Sky Sports TV fixture was postponed twice due to the waterlogged Dens pitch, taking the Dark Blues’ home call-off tally to FIVE for the season.

Hampden chiefs said: “As a result [of the postponements], Dundee were fined £186,000, of which £120,000 is suspended until the end of season 2024/25.”

Dee dispute the figure and are seeking legal advice over the punishment.


What is Dens Park pitch issue?

The current drainage system cannot cope with the level of rainfall Scotland has seen this year.

Dundee managing director John Nelms told Sky Sports earlier this month: “We have three areas that struggle.

“Keeping the water off those areas as long as we can is key.”

Five games at Dens have now been called off this season due to heavy rain.

Dundee general manager Greg Fenton claimed the Aberdeen postponement in December – less than an hour before kick-off – cost the club a six-figure sum.

Dens Park.
Dundee managing director John Nelms and owner Tim Keyes at Dundee’s recent visit to McDiarmid Park. Image: SNS.

Following the news the Rangers game was off at the second attempt, club secretary Eric Drysdale claimed the urgent need to improve the under-fire pitch showed the “effects of climate change”.

In February 2021, former assistant groundsman Brian Robertson Jr spoke to The Courier about the challenges of the job.

A troublesome patch in the middle of the park had been holding water during the campaign and a waterlogged pitch, a frozen surface and heavy snowfall led to a fixture with Ayr being called off on four occasions.

Brian Jr said: “Turn the undersoil heating on and you might get a flood. These are the things you have to weigh up, whichever way you go brings more problems.

“The amount of rain and snow we’ve had, everything is soaked and the drains we have are all old and aren’t able to really handle it.”

What has been done about Dens surface?

Prior to the Covid shutdown, the pitch at Dens Park was regularly praised for its quality.

But it is understood, following the pandemic, the budget for the upkeep of the pitch was cut.

Last month, Courier Sport’s Dundee FC correspondent George Cran wrote: “It’s not just this season, though, that the pitch has been an issue.

“Throughout the Championship-winning campaign, the Dens Park surface was in a sorry state.

“Work was done over the summer to alleviate those problems but issues remain.

John Nelms on Dens pitch last month.

“And we’re at a stage now where the pitch just can’t handle what is a normal level of rain for the Scottish winter/early spring.”

He added: “Dens Park was a place opposition teams like to come and play because the pitch was good.

“Now they can’t come and play.

Rangers boss Phillipe Clement on the Dens Park pitch. Image: SNS
Rangers boss Philippe Clement on the Dens Park pitch last month before postponement. Image: SNS

“Why’s that? Because the same level of investment that was previously put into the pitch hasn’t continued.

“There are reasons for that, a pandemic and more. But mainly it’s because of the new stadium.

“Why put money into Dens when you are going to move in the near future?”

Ground staff work on the Dens pitch ahead of kick off. Image: SNS
Ground staff work on the Dens pitch ahead of recent Motherwell fixture. Image: SNS

Dundee owner Tim Keyes addressed the situation this month.

“It’s always hard to fight Mother Nature,” Keyes told Dee TV.

“There’s not a lot we can do in some circumstances.

“But, I think we’ve done everything we can.

“We’ve brought in a lot of consultants to help with the pitch, we’ve brought in everything we can possibly to make the pitch playable.

“Sometimes you make it playable, sometimes you don’t, but it hasn’t been from a lack of effort.

“But also, I think it leads to the need for a new stadium.

“With a pitch as old as ours, there is only so much you can do and if we can keep moving on the path of the new stadium, I think the current issues won’t be as relevant.”

Who is helping Dundee FC with Dens pitch issues?

Long-serving father-and-son team Brian Robertson Sr and Brian Jr were suspended by the club in January over “an internal matter”, with temporary staff covering the absence of the groundsmen.

On February 3, in a short statement, Dundee said: “Brian Robertson Snr and Brian Robertson Jnr have left their positions at Dundee Football Club.

“The club thank them for their service and wish them well for the future.”

Since then the Dark Blues have enlisted the services of Glasgow-based specialists Allgrass Turf Care as they look to solve their pitch problems.

The club has also drafted in covers from Celtic and sought assistance from English Premier League partnership side Burnley.

Dundee United’s head groundsman Paul Murray will cross the street to join Dundee this summer.

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