Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis have well and truly battered the North West in recent weeks with a complete washout of fixtures due to waterlogged pitches.
I did a poll on Twitter recently asking about the future of football and if 3G pitches should become more frequent around the non-league scene. At the end of the poll, it had received 687 votes with 43% of people saying they think more 3G pitches should be used with 57% of people saying they prefer grass pitches in football.
One suggestion on the poll to improve the current state of non-league football was to move fixtures to a plastic pitch on Saturdays when it’s a total washout stating that you could play three to four games back to back with fans paying £10 to watch all the games.
Whilst this seems like a good idea, unfortunately, it means the clubs involved in this lose out on income as they don’t receive gate money or social money from the bar or kitchen but still have to pay out for the referee expenses.
A member of a local semipro club replied saying that he doesn’t think many football fans don’t prefer grass however 3G is the answer to prevent postponement havoc. 3G pitches also protect women’s football who use the pitches after the men. This means that they’ll have fewer games called off as a consequence to the men trashing the pitch the day before. 3G pitches are also good for youth football as it means that children can play football constantly without having to cancel sessions as that is all children want to do at the end of the day.
This is a point which I don’t think many people can argue with when you consider the long term benefits that this will bring to the club. To add to this point a member of Crewe Alexandra replied adding that 3G pitches also take care and benefit the financial side of the club as it gives them the ability to rent them out every day of the week without any damage occurring.
Whilst most fans can all agree that grass is much better for football and it is what the beautiful game should be played on most can’t argue that 3G are the future of the game.
In the North West Counties League Avro, Skelmersdale United, Lower Breck, Pilkington/St Helens, FC Oswestry Town and Stockport Town are the only clubs with a 3G pitch showing just how far from reality they currently are for a lot of non-league clubs. The Runcorn Town secretary looked into the reason of why 3G pitches are so rare at this level mentioning “I think most clubs at our level would love a 3G pitch and I know we at Runcorn Town definitely would. It virtually guarantees home games are on, you can train on it which cuts out paying external facilities, your juniors’ teams can play on it and it can become a real focal point for the community. However, the cost is prohibitive with a full-size pitch initially costing between £350k and £500k, with the surface needing replacing every 10 years.” An extraordinarily high amount of money for a club to try and find leaving most clubs priced out of a new playing surface. “The Football Foundation can help fund pitches for clubs but they focus on a lot of ‘football hubs’ and schools, whereas they should also look at individual clubs and how it can help them and their communities.”
The amount of clubs that use 3G pitches seems to be increasing each season as the constant bad weather has its effects on grass pitches. Golcar United have had their pitch badly damaged by the storms and have resorted to playing their league games at Avro’s ground making use of their superb 3G playing surface.
A member of Atherton Laburnum Rovers mentioned that “3G pitches are a moneymaker for clubs. Games are not cancelled because of a bit of mud, football is too soft these days.” A point that you can’t argue with again with clubs with a 3G pitch being able to rent it out daily without having to worry about pitch damage or bad weather.
One reply to the poll even quoted the great Brian Clough when he talked about how football was made to play on grass. Most clubs and fans would prefer to play on grass but with the recent bad weather clubs such as Garstang and Golcar United have faced severe damage to their grounds. If it wasn’t for 3G pitches the season would never end.
It was mentioned by a local football fan that due to so many cancellations due to the weather affecting play you end up having to play your whole season in six weeks at the end of the season and that the weather ruins the momentum. The stats prove this observation to be correct as the North West Counties League haven’t had a full fixture programme of all sixty teams playing on the same day since August 26th 2019. A large number of fixtures called off due to the weather with a few postponed for progress in cup competitions. A remarkable eighty-five games involving North West Counties League teams have been called off since the turn of the year and two games have been abandoned due to the weather.
Several clubs still have fourteen league games to play in the next two months and at least twelve clubs still have cup games to play. Whilst this is a dream for the enthusiastic groundhopper it is an absolute nightmare for the teams involved who have the nightmare of player availability, fitness and welfare to look after. The teams with the 3G pitches are some of the teams with the fewest games left to play as they have been able to use their pitches during the wet weather when most other games have been called off.
Whilst most other industries around the country are trying to cut down on artificial produce is it time that non-league football saw a rise in the use of artificial pitches?