PFA and club chairmen split on 3G pitches

The debate over the use of artificial pitches continues to rage on.

The majority of League One and League Two club Chairmen want to see 3G pitches installed, after 26 of 46 chairmen voted in favour at a meeting last September. However, speaking to BBC Sport, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) was less impressed.

Simon Barker, a member of the PFA’s Playing Surface Committee, said “The PFA are surprised and disappointed by the recent decision”.

Their initial concern is a democratic one; that of the players deserving a say on what surfaces they will play on in the future. The League Managers Association (LMA) was also not consulted on this occasion.

Long-term injuries also remain a concern. Barker experienced playing on artificial pitched during his time with QPR in the 80s when their Loftus Road home had a plastic pitch. The ex-England u-21 continued “There have been no studies on long-term injuries with players playing regularly on artificial surfaces. This area is of major concern to the PFA and could lead to litigation if a player’s career was cut short due to injuries associated with playing over an extended period of time on such pitches.”

Furthermore, competition fairness and player performance could be affected as well. In Wales’ recent Euro Qualification win over Andorra on an artificial 3G pitch, Gareth Bale described the conditions as “by far the worst I have ever played on”.

The counter argument being put forward is that in times of economic hardship for lower league clubs, artificial pitches bring a constant revenue flow. After the initial high cost of installation – around £500,000 – maintenance costs are drastically reduced, pitches remain playable in almost all conditions, and club’s will have the opportunity to hire the surface out.

But the PFA’s position remains steadfast. Barker commented “It would seem that they are being driven by promises of increased commercial revenue streams and not for reasons of quality, integrity and safety. Discussions we have had with knowledgeable sources within the game suggest that figures quoted from additional revenue from hiring out an artificial pitch are often hugely inflated.”

100% natural grass pitches are getting less and less common at top sporting venues. From the Millennium Stadium and Wembley in Britain to Real Madrid’s Bernabeu, hybrid pitches of natural grass and artificial turf are de rigueur. However, totally unauthentic 3G pitches are not so easily accepted.

Nevertheless, fans of League One and Two clubs could be seeing plastic pitches at their home grounds in the very near future. At the next chairmen gathering in November, a potential proposal could be approved that would see artificial pitches as soon as the 2015/16 season.

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