Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash has been joined by former West Ham striker Tony Cottee in calling for more clubs to use 3G pitches.
The Stones have seen a remarkable turn around in their fortunes in the past year as they made their return to the county town with purpose built Gallagher Stadium having had a 3G pitch installed.
It has proven to be an extremely inspired choice given the winter weather we have enjoyed in Kent, as many clubs have endured postponement after postponement.
There’s not an awful lot that will cause a game to be called off at Maidstone nowadays and the ground is in use most days throughout the year.
“I think possibly they are the way forward for non league football. At least you are not going to have games called off.”
“I’m sure it takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you know how to play on it, it’s probably a grea idea.”
“I’m all for it and anything that helps the local non leaue clubs is great and the last thing non league clubs need with the weather we’ve had is losing loads and loads of games.”
“It’s been a great idea and it’s obviously been great for Maidstone United.”
Meanwhile, Stones co-owner Oliver Ash feels it was the right choice for Maidstone United and is talking with both other clubs and the FA about rolling out 3G pitches both in non league and the Football League:
“I’m a very keen advocate of 3G and especially since we have seen how it applies to our club. Without 3G, I think it is fair to say we wouldn’t have a club and it’s the one ingredient in the renaissance of the club that ties it all together.”
Despite the initial expense, Ash believes it will pay for itself in the long run as it can be used day after day:
“We’ve just had a meeting with the FA at Gallagher who want to find out more about how our business model works, what income we raise and how we look to pay for the 3G pitch.”
“We also had the Chairman from Sutton Coldfield Football Club who are one of the few other clubs similar to ourselves in England who have a 3G stadium and it was very positive.”
“One of the things we analysed was the cost and the income of a 3G surface and we reckon to install a top level pitch today will cost between £300,000 and £400,000, but the impact on profit is such that it should be able to generate something like £120,000 to £150,000 of profit per year, so the cost of the pitch is covered within the first two or three years.”
“Although it is slightly unknown because it is a new technology and there’s not many examples of it, we would estimate that it would last around eight years.”
“That enables the Football Club to have a revenue source to pay for its costs and it also has an enormous knock on effect.”
“Thanks to being able to have in excess of a thousand people playing football on it every week, you bring that number of people into the club and those people become loyal supporters, they come to the games, they drink and eat in the bar, they’ll want to do events and parties in the clubhouse, they’ll come to club events and get involved in all aspects of the club.”
With so many clubs having seen their games called off throughout the winter with frozen or waterlogged pitches, Ash believes non league and league sides will look at installing 3G pitches to avoid fixture backlogs:
“We are the spokesmen for the 3G4US group of clubs, which is about 35 clubs and there are a lot of clubs looking at this from levels below the Ryman League and above.”
“We’re very confident that together with the support of the FA within the next year or so the Conference will allow 3G and at some stage in the future we’re hoping the Football League will allow games to be played on 3G.”
“The benefits to certain clubs are enormous. Some wealthy clubs probably don’t need it as they can pay for the cost of maintaining a very high quality grass pitch, but for clubs around our level and up to League Two, it’s probably a way of helping the club function properly.”
Ash also believes it won’t be too long before clubs as high as the Championship go with 3G, but can’t see it catching on at Premier League level:
“I think within a few years we will see it in the Football League and that’s quite likely as a few months ago the Football League did a consultation with clubs from the Championship down to League Two and the League Two Chairmen were in favour of allowing 3G in their league, so that’s already agreed.”
“With 3G getting better and better, the arguments for it are getting stronger and stronger and there are no real serious arguments against it now.”
“Having it in the Conference is probably more of a case of months rather than years, but for the Premier League I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future.”
“The clubs don’t really need it so it’s not really an issue for them.”
“3G pitches are allowed in many countries at the top level, particularly in places like Scandanavia, Russia and Switzerland where top level football is played on it.”
“FIFA, UEFA and the FA allow it and the Champions League and internationals are all played on it. The Premier League players can play on it for those kinds of games, so it makes it absurd that we can’t play on it in the Third Round of the FA Cup.”
“It would make sense to play it at Premier League level, but I doubt that will happen for a while.”
With clubs like Tunbridge Wells and Ebbsfleet United facing fixture backlogs for various reasons, it is surely just a matter of time before we see more of Kent’s non league sides going with 3G.