Buy our exclusive Scottish football stadium poster

How EFL Clubs Could Benefit Financially From Installing 3G Pitches

The controversy surrounding 3G playing surfaces has the tendency to rear its ugly head every couple of seasons, with the subject tending to divide both fans and clubs officials. In English football, artificial pitches have been outlawed in the top four tiers since 1995, although this was temporarily changed to enable non-league outfits to compete in the FA Cup. However, with a growing number of EFL sides struggling financially, and looking for ways to supplement their match-day income, the introduction of synthetic surfaces could be one way to help teams in the long-run.

Non League

The National League approved the use of plastic pitches at the beginning of 2016. Despite a large number of clubs voting in favour of the decision, only a handful of fifth tier competitors have opted to go down this route. Maidstone were the first side in the UK to build a stadium with third-generation artificial turf, with the Gallagher Stadium making national headlines when it became the first 3G surface to feature in a televised FA Cup tie.

Other semi-professional sides have followed their lead with Bromley, Chatham Town, Sutton United and Harrogate Town all installing synthetic surfaces to varying degrees of success. The latter enjoyed a terrific 2019-2020 campaign, and although they have just missed out on promotion this season, if they were to achieve this feat in the future, they would be required to revert back to grass.

Positives of a 3G Pitch

One of the major advantages of playing on an artificial surface is that clubs can avoid losing too many fixtures to adverse weather during the winter months. Heavy rainfall can often cause semi-professional sides to have multiple matches called off, resulting in a major backlog of games. Not only does this provide a logistical nightmare for the authorities, the loss of match-day revenue over the Christmas period can be critical. Although 3G pitches are not completely impermeable, they are less prone to flooding, and this could be hugely beneficial to EFL clubs such as Newport and Tranmere, who have been criticised for having unplayable surfaces over the last couple of seasons.

Many non-league outfits have also opened their 3G pitch throughout the week with local teams and organisations renting it out on a regular basis. This not only aids community relations, it may also result in additional income. Furthermore, this may also enable lower-league clubs to attract a new generation of fans. Some football figureheads have previously expressed their concern about the lack of younger supporters coming through the turnstiles, and this can be blamed on a myriad of reasons including readily available Premier League highlights and the popularity of online gaming options such as FIFA. Even some older fans are not as dedicated these days with many getting their football fix elsewhere. eSports, free-to-air matches and virtual football betting sites all offer alternative opportunities to enjoy the sport without having to leave the house. It is thought that some members of the public could be tempted to return to the stadium on a match-day if they are regularly taking part in competitions and tournaments throughout the week. This will help sides build a rapport between the community and the club; something which is increasingly less prevalent these days.

Negatives of a 3G Pitch

One disadvantage of an artificial pitch is that many fans vehemently believe that it can't quite replicate the thrill of playing on grass. Moreover, some players just do not enjoy competing on 3G surfaces, and have been known to produce underwhelming performances as a result.

However, the major downside is the initial outlay, which can cost up to £500,000. Clearly, it is a long-term investment, although in the current climate, very few EFL clubs would have this kind of money to throw at the project.

Will it Ever Happen?

When the National League voted in favour of artificial pitches, many expected the EFL to follow suit. However, they have remained resolute in their approach, and thus far have rejected all calls to relax the rules regarding 3G playing surfaces.

Many top-flight clubs in Scotland play on synthetic surfaces, whilst other high-profile clubs such as FC Nordsjaelland, Boavista and Seattle Sounders have also moved away from the traditional turf.

Technology has evolved since plastic pitches were last seen in the top four tiers of English football, although many attitudes towards them have not. The English Football League is extremely traditional, and changes are infrequent; however, with many clubs on the brink of financial turmoil, the introduction of artificial pitches may just be one way of helping them to balance the books going forward.

More articles from Football Ground Map...

Football Grounds To Visit While You Still Can

All good things have to come to an end, and the same unfortunately has to be said for football stadiums too. This article looks at the grounds which are soon to host their last match, the stadiums whose days are numbered and where fans will be watching their football from next.

Surviving football boredom - a football fans' guide

23 interesting things to do to pass the time until the football season restarts

The 91 Biggest Football Stadiums in Europe

The 91 biggest football stadiums in Europe. From Manchester to Munich, Villa Park to Valencia - each one with a capacity over 40,000

My Daughter's First Football Match

My daughter's first ever football match - Orlando City v Atlanta United, August 2019. Written for Izzy to read when she gets old enough. Vamos Orlando

Buy our exclusive Scottish football stadium poster