3G OR NOT 3G
Printed in the Southern League Central Division match v Soham Town Rangers on Saturday 5th March 2011. We run 2-1 in front of 252.
Now being a gardener you would expect me to stick up for grass, but I’m beginning to wonder if a bit of the artificial stuff is the way forward. After another wave of bad weather everyone at Slough is really looking forward to late nights and a hectic end of season fight for the play offs. But does it have to be like this?
With the club slowly edging towards a return back to the borough wouldn’t it be better to install a 4G pitch at the new ground, guaranteeing the club fewer postponements and the pitch available for use seven days a week. The harsh financial reality is that lower league clubs are taking a battering. You just have to look over the river to see what’s happened to Windsor.
So what’s the problem?
Maidstone United, homeless for over twenty years, have been told by the FA that should they go ahead with fitting an artificial pitch at their new stadium, they will not be able to gain promotion or play matches at home in the FA Cup. But their owner reckons that the only viable way of the club returning home is be to have an artificial pitch which can be used 7 days a week all year round. Windsor’s new owner reckons the same.
The FA have banned artificial pitches in the Premier league, football league, and FA cup, although they are allowed in the Trophy and Vase. The Conference have also banned them and this led Durham City nearly folding after their sponsors pulled out when the club were told they couldn’t get promotion. In the glue sniff league Woodley Sports also play on plastic.
Now were not talking about crazy bouncing balls and gashed legs courtsery of the old style astro turfs. Technology has come along way. In any case, by the end of last season at Beaconsfield there wasn’t a blade of grass left on the pitch and at one match I nearly had an asthma attack there was so much dust.
After relaying the Wembley grass every other week, it now has artificial fibres meshed into the grass – although at a cost of £250,000 this might be a bit prohibitive for Slough.
Bob and Gary Breen run Breen Consultants, and Bob Breen is chairman of Burnham FC. They have been advising everyone from UEFA to the smaller clubs on the grass alternative. Gary explained the possible benefits: "It was an eye opener to see how football clubs are running. Fundamentally this club (Burnham) and many others haven't got any money. You look at the clubs' assets - the pitch. Selling it as an 11-a-side and seven-a-side artificial pitch you can easily sell it to 40,000 people, at the moment you are struggling to get a 1,000 on it. All of a sudden 40,000 people are using your bar, your changing rooms, your vending machines. That suddenly becomes a real sell commercially, we are putting people through here and it is about community. You can play on football turf 52 weeks of the year because you don't have to maintain and prepare it over the summer. Players can train on it over the summer and knees don't get knackered on the old ground so you can have a more limited squad and the local professional teams are not reluctant to send you their young stars because they know they won't get injured. It's really important that the FA and leagues set standards and make sure that they are maintained, it is a no brainer if it is done properly.”
Something needs to give in lower league football unless we want many more clubs to go to the wall. This could be part of the solution. At the very least the FA could look at the issues. Perhaps the problem is that they are all just addicted to grass.