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Financial benefits could see artificial pitches replace grass surfaces

They were banned in 1988 because they were accused of causing injury and lowering the standard of football being played on them, but could artificial pitches be making a comeback to English football?

If some Football League clubs get their own way, this could be the case. Wycombe Wanderers and Accrington Stanley are two clubs keen to introduce new measures in a bid to cut costs and increase revenue.

Technology has advanced significantly since the likes of Preston North End, Oldham Athletic, Luton Town and Queen's Park Rangers all possessed artificial surfaces and a number of top-flight clubs on the continent now choose plastic over grass.

These hi-tech pitches are approved by world governing body Fifa, while Uefa, which runs football in Europe, allows Champions League ties to be played on artificial surfaces.

Representatives from Wycombe and Accrington believe that these pitches are the future of English football.

"Within 10 years, we will see quite a number of pitches," said Wycombe vice-chairman Brian Kane.

Accrington chief executive Rob Heys added: "There's been a change of opinion recently. There is an appetite for them."

However, Burnley chief executive, Paul Fletcher is firmly against the idea.

"I hope they do not appear anytime soon," he said. "I do not think the spectators would like it because it would be like seeing a game of five-a-side not a real game of football.

"I can understand clubs wanting an all-weather pitch that they can use 10 times a week but it would be false. Just like if you put a plastic surface down on the tennis courts at Wimbledon, it would not quite be the same."

Fletcher also says the impact artificial surfaces have on the body should not be underestimated either.

"The players of my era have had major problems with hips and joints as they have got older," said the 60-year-old. 

"Modern pitches have shock pads and they are getting better and better but, in my view, they will never replace the beautiful surface of grass."

For artificial surfaces to return to the Football League at some point in the future, there would need to be a proposal and vote in favour at an annual general meeting.

For the vote to be passed, there would need to be a 50% plus one majority of the member 72 clubs, plus 50% plus one club majority in the Championship.

It is unlikely for clubs in the Championship to vote in favour of the artificial pitches given that, if they were promoted to the Premier League, they would have to rip up their pitch and replace it with a grass one.

In my opinion, it's a difficult situation.

Lower league clubs are struggling financially and any help that they can get to improve their revenue and lower costs should be encouraged.

However, if these changes affect the football quality or put players at risk of injury, then there has to be a line drawn and we must find other ways to help struggling clubs.
 


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03/23/2012 12:04

THX for info

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