Feature: Are Artificial Pitches The Way Forward?
Two worn-out jumpers, some grass, a tired ball and ideally a mate or two, that’s all you’ve ever needed to play football, and that’s why we love it so much. However, is the English professional and semi-professional game about to see another huge change.
You can breathe a sigh of relief, goal-line technology isn’t coming to all grounds yet, but artificial 3G pitches soon could be. Sutton United, who play in the Vanarama National League are one of the first semi-professional clubs to boast a 3G pitch, alongside others Maidstone United and Bromley. This has sparked an ongoing debate as to whether it should become compulsory across the leagues.
‘The development of football turf now allows the game to be played on surfaces that replicate the playing qualities of the good quality natural turf’, a statement from Sutton FC on their £420,000 purchase when it was installed in 2015, which has since hosted successful FA Cup fixtures against Arsenal and Leeds.
So, should it become a regular occurrence, or even one day a law that semi-professional clubs and upwards have 3G pitches? Many who are for the change argue pitches will be of a consistent standard across the leagues, won’t need time to recover after use and, with clever drainage solutions, will be better in rainy seasons. However not everyone is convinced.
One huge downfall in the argument for 3G pitches is their proven capability of contributing to injury. The way the plastic behaves is different to grass, and provides more friction which means when quickly changing direction or stopping, players commonly ‘roll’ ankles or strain ligaments in the knees, which are put under stress when movement like this is carried out. Costs of instillation and wear and tear are also issues that would need to be addressed.
Despite this though, artificial pitches are continuing to improve and have even received plaudits from England manager Gareth Southgate: “I’ve seen the affect 3G turf can have in providing a fantastic experience for those playing, coaching and officiating at all levels of the nation’s favourite game”. Attention like this is difficult for The FA to ignore as the debate continues to bubble.