This article was originally published in October 2020.
Artificial pitches help small clubs bring in revenue and foster community football. Why must they tear them up to get promoted?
After the recent National League play-offs, Harrogate Town FC have just become the first English club playing on a 3G artificial pitch to be promoted to the top four divisions of English football – the English Football League. This should be happy news for me, an enthusiastic and obstinate drumbeater for 3G pitches. I have been campaigning for years to promote greater understanding of the benefits of today’s top-quality artificial pitches, ever since Maidstone United, a modest professional club of which I am a director, became the first in England to construct a new football stadium with a purpose-built 3G pitch.
On the back of our positive experiences running the business with the benefit of a 3G pitch, we offered to share our knowledge with other clubs and help spread the gospel about the 3G business model. Seven years on, there are growing numbers of clubs at pro and semi-pro level enjoying using 3G pitches. Indeed, I don’t know any that regret it. Well, why should they? 3G pitches are lush and flat so they promote high-quality passing football. Good players thrive. Nothing, however, prevents hardened defenders from going in sliding to recover the ball as they would on a muddy field – except for the fact that skilled attackers will leave them looking stupid lying on the ground.
Clubs with 3G pitches can hire them to raise revenue, nurture a whole range of community teams in-house, operate academies that can use the pitch at off-peak times, and develop wide-ranging affiliations that in turn generate new revenues, including those from increased first-team match attendance, events, room hire, sponsorship and merchandising. Furthermore, clubs suffer no cash flow crises from bad weather postponements, which are a thing of the past on a 3G pitch. And in case you are wondering, 3G pitches are not dangerous to play on like the old 1G ones were in the 1980s. Medical studies have shown that.