Yeovil Town Chairman John Fry has said that the club are looking at the possibility of introducing a plastic pitch to Huish Park as their main stadium surface. In this week's Western Gazette they indicate that the Glovers are considering pulling up their existing grass surface that was laid at the start of the 2002-03 season at a cost of around £200,000.
Mr Fry tells the paper that the existing pitch needs "£500,000 investment" in it adding that "it should have been replaced five years ago", implying that the surface that got them into the Football League only had a shelf life of five years. Whilst still a mile away from the boggy mess that the club played on around the start of the current millennium, the Huish Park pitch has not reached its previous quality in recent years, with the turf cutting up and looking a little bare in places.
Last month, the Football League opened up a consultation period with its member clubs and other interested parties to canvass views on whether it should allow artificial pitches to be reintroduced to the professional game, after they were banned following criticism of their use during the 1980s. They plan to discuss the matter further at their summer AGM, although it would be a significant surprise if rule changes were brought in then, with some clubs guaranteed to oppose it.
In addition the Football League need to consider what would happen to clubs promoted/relegated to/from the Premier League and Conference divisions, along with the views of the Football Association, who in addition to their governing role, determine the rules of the FA Cup. If the Football League introduced the rule unilaterally, then a club promoted from the Championship into the Premier League might be forced to rip up their pitch, and it is in the second tier that there is thought to be the most opposition to such a change.
So far, League Two side Accrington Stanley and League One side Wycombe Wanderers have come out in favour of the proposal, whilst Championship side Burnley have said they would vote against it. The view of the BBC Sport website last November was that for this proposal to be carried, the league constitution would require a majority of Championship clubs to vote in favour of it, as well as a standard majority of all 72 clubs. Fry tells the paper that the return of plastic pitches "has been agreed in principle" but we will not find out until June how strong those views are.
Fry indicates that he has yet to discuss the issue with manager Gary Johnson, although his predecessor Terry Skiverton gave strong views on Keynsham Town's 3G pitch, making the decision to take all of his professional players out of a Somerset Premier Cup tie last October due to him not regarding the pitch as a suitable playing surface. However, the Glovers Chairman indicates that it comes down to money, adding "the money we will save through maintenance is staggering."
There is no word on the status of American artificial turf provider Blue Sky International, who the club claimed back in October 2011 would be providing them with a 'free' artificial surface. BSI have had a perimeter advertising board at Huish Park this season, along with a full page advert in the matchday programme, but all has gone quiet since the initial announcement six months ago and the Gazette don't make reference to them.
Elsewhere, the paper reports on the views of the SSDC Planning unit, who believe the club's Food Store planning application to be in breach of four local and national planning policies. The Gazette quote the capacity of the mooted Away Stand as being 2,500, down from the originally announced 3,500 capacity figure - the downsize is sourced from the club's planning consultant Mark Wood of MWA Planning. Mr Fry gives an indication of what is on the table as stadium improvements if the plans were to be approved:
"There is a huge demand for improvements including training pitches, artificial pitches, a replacement marquee and bar as well as car parking and traffic measure and an improved safety control box in the ground."
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