So, the debate over artificial pitches goes on. In 2012-13, the FA permitted them in the FA Cup up to the fourth qualifying round, which says a lot about what they really think of non-league football. “It’s OK chaps for you little boys, but we don’t want the big boys to use it.”
But it’s acceptable in UEFA circles, and World Cup qualifying games have been played on 3G pitches. So, there’s inconsistency all over the place. Today, as we look at a nation flooded, at the mercy of the elements, and hundreds of games have to rearranged, it seems inconceivable that some people are still in denial about the benefits of artificial surfaces.
Non-league clubs are losing money every week. Some, like Poole, have forgotten what it’s like to play at home. Poole are heading to Wimbourne in order to get fixtures completed. No games equals no revenue. Everyone, including the sceptics, wants a 3G pitch, but not to play competitive games on – to hire out to make money.
There are a number of ways to ease the pressure on non-league clubs: change the football calendar; have a winter break; reduce the number of teams in divisions, thereby allowing room to manoeuvre; and permitting the broader use of artificial pitches.
What could happen? What should happen? Maidstone United are locking horns with the authorities and quite rightly so. Oliver Ash, who is spearheading the 3G4US group, and is a co-owner of Maidstone United, says: “The arguments for allowing 3G synthetic pitches in professional football are now well-rehearsed. They enable pitches and club facilities to be used around the clock, bringing in increased revenues and better community involvement in clubs. There is less weather disruption too, which is positive for revenue streams and the excellent playing surfaces encourage good technical football.”
Sounds like common sense to me. But whenever did common sense and football get into bed? If there is enough support, and the Football League and Football Association refuse to introduce more flexibility, there could be a far-reaching impact.
Just suppose artificial pitch users find they are prevented from progressing because their pitches are not allowed at a higher level. What’s stopping a new form of Association Football emerging: 3G Football. In other words, football played on artificial surfaces. It sounds crazy, but if there is enough critical mass, clubs could breakaway and form their own sport. Of course, it wouldn’t be a million miles away from the game played on mud, but it could be played any time of year.
We shouldn’t be too surprised that people are already starting to mutter about the possibility. We have beach football, futsal, football for the deaf, football for the blind, wheelchair football, ability counts football. Why not The 3G Football Premiership. Is it really that daft?
Game of the People supports Maidstone United on this issue!