The Football League have announced plans to conduct a formal consultation into the use of artificial pitches in first team football. This has been a proposal that has been discussed at recent meetings between member clubs - they now plan to throw open the idea to all interested parties including the Football Association, the Professional Footballers Association, the League Managers Association and the Football Supporters Federation, amongst others.
Those that are proposing the return of artificial pitches cite bad weather during the winter months, and the ability to create revenue streams by using the pitches on other days in the week for potential profit. Those that oppose it, question the quality of the surfaces, and the general imbalance created by what happens when some clubs have access to such surfaces to train and play on, whilst others do not.
Chief Operating Officer Andy Williamson has said that the League has an open mind on the issue, although wants views to be expressed by April 30th 2012, to give the chance for the matter to be discussed during the League's 2012 AGM weekend, currently scheduled for May 31st - June 1st:
"For the first time in twenty years there is a clear appetite amongst a number of Football League clubs to reconsider the use of artificial surfaces for first team matches. It is fair to say that The Football League currently has an open mind on the issue, however it is a decision that will clearly have implications for all those with an interest in professional football. It is important therefore that everybody gets the opportunity to have their say."
Of course the Glovers currently have a potential trading partnership with American turf company Blue Sky International, who have claimed that they will install a pitch for Yeovil Town free of charge at a location and date that has yet to be agreed. At present this is envisaged to be a 'community pitch' rather than a main pitch. Much will depend upon their credibility and the quality of anything installed by BSI - if indeed it gets that far down the line, given all has been quiet since they pulled out of their investment into League Two side Port Vale.
The Football League did experiment with plastic pitches during the 1980s to much controversy, with clubs like Luton Town, Queens Park Rangers, Oldham Athletic and Preston North End installing such surfaces. They were subsquently ripped up with artificial surfaces banned by senior leagues as being unsuitable. The argument now is that with 3G surfaces giving a much 'truer' experience, that the time is right for them to return. But there will undeniably be much opposition to them being introduced without some kind of trialling of such surfaces over an extended period of time.
Link: Football League Artificial Surfaces Consultation Document.
Link: Football League Artificial Surfaces Survey.
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