Sutton United are a team who face relegation from the top tier of non league football down to the National League South if they are promoted and do not take the step up into the Football League.
The fact that Sutton United would have to rip up their pitch is absolutely insane considering the surface was only just made eligible in the National League when they won promotion in 2015/16. Why can’t the EFL accept that it is 2018, football is modernised, and we have to move on with the times. They are already implementing goal line technology and VAR into refereeing decisions – why can’t the EFL allow a modern take on football turf?
Upholding the ban on 3G pitches could be very detrimental to Sutton United and destroy all the hard work the club have put in off the pitch over the past few years.
“We have always considered ourselves to be a non league club and the ambition has been to play at the top level of non league.” Sutton United chairman Bruce Elliott told BT Sport.
“But ambitions change, and if we had the opportunity to play in the Football League, would we take it? Yes of course we would.”
The main argument is that the technology has moved on so much since the 1980s when Oldham, Luton, Preston and QPR installed plastic pitches. The latter being at Loftus Road which Joe Royle, of Oldham Athletic, recalls a lot about.
“It was a nightmare, basically a layer of Astro Turf on top of concrete,” he said. “I once saw a keeper take a goal kick and it bounced so high that it flew over the crossbar at the other end.” Royle told BBC Sport.
As a consequence of these abominations 3G surfaces were banned in 1995 for all professional clubs. That was twenty-three years ago.
Fast forward to today and the FA Cup is a competition which allows artificial turf. This means that clubs as high as the Premier League have the possibility of playing a competitive fixture on the surface. This was seen in last years FA Cup when Arsenal played at Gander Green Lane in the 5th round. 3G turf is also used in the Champions League, Europa League and Euro qualifiers.
In my opinion it’s a psychological thing for teams that they have a disadvantage on 3G pitches. This assumption is only helped by the mainstream media who jump quickly to assume that because a surface is different then it must be deemed a game changer – it no doubt instigates a discussion in the news!
Especially in non league you see more and more teams investing big money in these pitches. Teams like Scarborough Athletic, Newmarket Town and Maidstone United all rely on the surface. It forms part of their business plan and secures the club financially for years to come through an abundance of revenue streams. The clubs can also play and train on the pitch due to it’s durability so a training ground is not needed.
There is more to the argument but I hope just some of the points I have made can be taken into consideration. For more information on 3G pitches, the Sutton United website is a useful source of information.
Header picture by Bromley FCTV