Following an announcement that there was a “clear appetite” to reconsider the use of artificial surfaces in the Football League, a group of professional clubs are getting together to promote the cause.
The clubs, who either use or plan to use such pitches are setting up a contact group, 3G4US, aimed at promoting the merits of 3G artificial surfaces, as well as providing practical information and experience to other clubs interested in installing these pitches in the future.
The group has been put together by Ryman (Isthmian) League club Maidstone United, who are currently building a new stadium with an artificial pitch – the first club in the country to do so from the outset.
Maidstone United Director Oliver Ash said: “Many clubs have already installed these modern pitches, which play just like good grass pitches and are benefiting in many ways from them. The gains to the clubs’ communities from extensive use of the playing facilities as well as the economic benefit to clubs are now well documented. We certainly want to encourage more clubs to consider installing them.”
Ash says there has been interest from clubs such as Wycombe Wanderers of the Football League and Alloa Athletic of the Scottish League, as well as Durham City and Folkestone Invicta among semi-professional clubs.
He added: “There are many different and excellent reasons why a club might wish to go down the 3G route. It may be a choice or it may be, in some cases, a question of economic survival. We want the 3G4US clubs to share their practical experiences of installation, construction, suppliers and maintenance and to promote the merits and advantages of these pitches. We are starting the ball rolling by inviting clubs to our new ground in March.”
One problem, however, is that current rules prevent matches above a certain league level being played on artificial turf. This is a disincentive for ambitious clubs to put in expensive pitches only to be blocked if they are in a position to be promoted to a higher level.
With the latest consultation from the Football League and much positive publicity recently concerning the quality of the artificial surfaces, it seems only a question of time before the door is once again open to artificial turf in the Football League and FA Cup.