Time to consider a 3G pitch?
Time to consider a 3G pitch?

With postponements wreaking havoc with the non league schedule in recent weeks, is it time for clubs to consider a 3G pitch?Maidstone v Lewes2

The past three weeks has seen clubs suffer the plight of having games called off on a regular basis, causing severe cash flow issues, whilst causing fixture pile ups.

Clubs like Folkestone Invicta have been unable to play home fixtures due to structural damage to one of their stands, whilst Whitstable Town face playing three times a week for the majority of the remainder of the season due to waterlogged pitches.

Only last night there were yet more postponements with only one non league fixture taking place in Kent with the likes of Dover Athletic, Cray Wanderers and Hythe Town forced to call off their planned matches.

It doesn’t have to be that way though, with Maidstone United showing the way by using a 3G surface.

Having come a long way since the days of Luton Town playing on their astroturf surface back in the 1980’s, the Stones have shown that an artificial surface can have a huge amount of benefits.

Not only do they not face postponements as the Gallagher Stadium isn’t prone to waterlogged or frozen pitches like grass surfaces, but it also has financial benefits too.

The pitch at Maidstone is almost in constant use with game after game played there, day after day, whilst players of all ages can train on the same surface that they’ll eventually play on.

For a non league side, the numbers stack up in the long run as the surface pays for itself by providing clubs with a regular income, but more importantly they don’t suffer the backlog of fixtures that teams with grass pitches do.

You’ll always get voices amongst football that’ll state that the game was meant to be played on grass, but 3G pitches are already playing host to international and Champions League fixtures.

With weather patterns seemingly getting more and more extreme and clubs not happy with taking a winter break, one of the most logical answers seems to be to use a 3G pitch and Maidstone United’s co-owner Oliver Ash explained the benefits to his club:

Oliver Ash“This week for the third successive time the Non-League football schedule has been severely disrupted by rain.”

“We haven’t even felt the full severity of an icy winter yet! Each postponement adds to aggravation and frustration for fans. It causes cash-flow problems and permanent revenue losses for clubs.”

“With 3G, postponements due to rain and even freezing temperatures are a thing of the past.”

“The pitch will still play perfectly well in such weather and allow attractive football to be played, fixtures will take place and clubs’ business activities are able to continue uninterrupted.”

At present, Maidstone United face a stumbling block as they can go no higher than the league they are in (Ryman Premier League) with a 3G surface.

The FA’s rules currently prevent clubs like Maidstone from playing in the Conference or the Football League with a 3G pitch and they can go no further than the FA Cup Qualifying Rounds on that surface.Maidstone v Ebbsfleet

Ash and the Stones seem set to challenge that ruling as they seek to gain promotion with the co-owner keen to see the authorities look at the benefits to clubs like his:

“3G is most certainly the future. For FIFA, UEFA, most other football countries including France, Holland and Scotland and increasing numbers of UK football clubs such as Maidstone United, Sutton United and the 50 clubs which are part of the 3G4US group it is also the present.”

“The football authorities in England are scandalously behind the times in not promoting and embracing 3G, which can be so beneficial to clubs’ financial sustainability.”

In just a few weeks time there will be a meeting within the FA to consider the situation Maidstone United find themselves in.

A club with gates of over 1,500 on a regular basis and close to the top of the league, but with no guarantee they’ll get promoted even if they get the required amount of points.

With clubs suffering week after week with the weather, maybe recent events will make the authorities look ever closer at the benefits of a 3G surface.