Tuesday, January 21, 2014

3G pitches must be the future

Very few games were played in Kent at the weekend - for the fourth or 5th weekend in a row. But mine was, simply because it was moved to a  3G pitch, a surface that I would be delighted to see as the future of all football. The game was a lowly one, the bottom division of the Kent County League. Often, they are scruffy affairs, with the ball lumped from end to end. Not this game though.

From the first minute, the players discovered they knew how to play football. The ball was kept on the ground and within half an hour both teams were puffing hard because the pace was so fast.
As a spectator, the game was a pleasure to watch. The bounce was even and the grass-like surface played just as real grass would in a top stadium.  Even though the surface was wet, the ball stayed at a constant pace throughout, a pace that appeared just a little slower than it might have been on slick, wet grass.
But the players of Borden Village Reserves and South Darenth soon got used to it and clearly enjoyed playing on the surface.
This pitch belongs to a local school, and cost a huge amount, probably more than £200,000. Maidstone United of the Ryman Premier League, have also invested in a similar pitch and are enjoying considerable success. The pitches recoup money quickly, The one I was refereeing on was booked solid all day Saturday and Sunday and most evenings. At £75 an hour do the sums yourself.
These 3G artificial pitches are also used at the very top level, with a Russian team using it for their Champions League games in the freezing winter. 3G doesn't freeze.
But some short-sighted officialdom has decided that in England, the Football Conference and Football League will not allow clubs to use the surface. So if Maidstone United, as they could well do, win promotion to the Skrill Conference South next season as they fight to regain their former glory, will not be allowed to progress and will remain stuck in the Ryman League.
Maidstone's progressive owner is working hard to push the club along, and it would be a tragedy if they were prevented from advancing.
Critics should go and have a run around on the pitch.
As an aging, unfit ref, I usually spend a couple of days working off stiffness in my joints after a game. After Saturday's match, I had no such issues. There is a give in the durface that lessens muscle strain.

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