For the second year running A-League players will be gauging the atmosphere generated by football fans across Australia, starting with the electrifying Melbourne Derby tomorrow night.

The PFA Stadium Ratings System, which monitors the quality of A-League playing surfaces throughout the season via player feedback, will again incorporate an extra rating for ‘atmosphere’.

“A good atmosphere is a key component of the match-day experience for fans and players alike, and recognising fans through the feedback of the players serves as a great way for players to acknowledge the huge part that fans play in the game.

Furthermore, it is well known that the quality of pitches throughout the league can have a direct impact on the quality of football, as well as the risk of injury to players”, said PFA Chief Executive Nick Holland.

AAMI Park, the recipient of the players’ PFA Award for the A-League’s Best Pitch in 2011/12, has set the benchmark for other A-League grounds.  It became a clean sweep for Melbourne when the Melbourne Victory fans, known as the Blue & White Brigade, took out the inaugural award for Best Atmosphere at A-League games.

The arrival of the Western Sydney Wanderers, however, now makes for a new and highly anticipated Sydney Derby which is sure to rival the hype of those seen in Melbourne since Heart’s inception in 2010.

“Rivalries such as the one I’ve experienced at Melbourne Heart against Victory help create club identities that football fans can relate to, which in turn generates more interest and helps grow the game.  The arrival of the Western Sydney Wanderers adds another exciting dimension to our league and I know I’ll be watching when Sydney FC and the Wanderers come up against each other”, said PFA President Simon Colosimo who has represented the Sky Blues before signing with Melbourne Heart.

Add to this mix the arrival of marquee players Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono and it’s clear that large crowds and greater atmospheres will be more widespread than ever in the A-League this year.

The PFA Stadium Rating System monitors pitch quality based on 3 key criteria; pace, hardness and smoothness, plus a rating out of 5 for the pitch overall.  The ratings are gathered from the away team captains following each round of fixtures and provide an ongoing source of feedback for stadiums and clubs to ensure their grounds are maintained to the highest standards.

“What we’ve seen is increasing interest from clubs during the season as to how visiting teams are rating their pitch as a means to improve it ahead of the next game”, said PFA Player Relations Executive Nathan Meade.

On and off the field the scene is set for another great season of football, none of which would be possible without the two ingredients that make the match-day experience so special- the players, and most importantly, the fans.

The 2011/12 PFA Stadium Ratings can be found here