After another extremely wet period of British winter weather a number of Football League clubs have come under the spotlight for the quality of their playing surfaces. The72 looks at the continuous debate of the possibility of artificial playing surfaces being used in The Football League in future years.
During the 1980s plastic pitches were trailed by Queens Park Rangers, Luton Town, Preston North End and Oldham Athletic but failed to become a long term success in The Football League and were banned in 1995.
At the start of the new millennium, an artificial playing surface was installed at Scottish Premier League club Dunfermline Athletic but was soon removed after many labelled the surface dangerous and claimed that a number of injuries were caused as a result of the poor quality of the artificial playing surface.
In recent years technology has moved forward with the introduction of 3G and 4G pitches. A number of these surfaces can now be seen at many Football League clubs training grounds to allow players to continue to train in extreme weather conditions so could this new technology be implemented in Football League stadiums across England?
In Scotland, there has been a level of success with the installation of artificial playing surfaces at a number of Scottish Football League clubs with the likes of Falkirk, Alloa Athletic and Annan Athletic some of the clubs currently using artificial 3G playing surfaces. These surfaces permit the clubs to host fixtures in extreme weather conditions allowing clubs to continue to receive a steady stream of incoming revenue throughout the winter months.
In The Football League, a small number of League 1 and League 2 clubs have recently raised in interest in the possibility of using artificial pitches at their grounds. Accrington Stanley and Newport County have both recently had a number of matches postponed with waterlogged pitches while Championship club Cardiff City’s surface came under huge criticism following their FA Cup defeat to Shrewsbury Town on Sunday. Artificial pitches could provide clubs with a consistent playing surface which can be used all year round and hired out at a charge on a regular basis.
York City, Wigan Athletic and Newport County all currently ground share with rugby clubs which can potentially cause damage to their pitches particularly in wet weather. An artificial surface could prevent damage to those clubs playing surfaces and reduce the number of postponements. In rugby league, Widnes recently installed an artificial surface at their stadium which has generally faired well against potential criticism.
Global warming and a trend of warmer, wetter winters could play a huge part in the future of English professional football and I am sure that the artificial playing surface debate will no doubt be a major topic of debate again in the near future.