3G or not to be…

Richard Piggford
By Richard Piggford March 26, 2018 16:12

3G or not to be…

Richard Piggford, Friday 23rd Match 2018 ©

A few weeks back, whilst boarding a busy London tube, I was at listening to the Muddy Knees media produced podcast; The Totally Football League show. This is a spin off of the hugely popular Totally football league show. The show is hosted by the excellent Iain Macintosh and discusses all things EFL (English Football league) with a set of regular expert guests each week.

During the particular episode I make reference too, the panel were discussing Sutton United and their potential promotion charge from The Vanarama National League to Sky Bet League Two . This raised the question of if Sutton United (currently second in The Vanarama National League) were to be promoted, would they be allowed to use their current, Gander Green Lane community Stadium, as it has an artificial 3G pitch. Some quick research informed me that the simple answer is a no. EFL clubs as recently as this season have again discussed the use of 3G pitches, ut currently the rules stand, and no club using a 3G pitch will be allowed to enter the EFL – at least if they want to play their home games on the artificial surface. The panel on The Totally Football league show, put the question to listeners of the show to express their opinions and it was very clear this question really divides opinion. Some say – yes, it allows 24/7 use of a facility and ignites communities, others say no, and point to the numerous studies that suggest injury risk is significantly higher. Many also point out that artificial pitches had once been allowed before in the Football League, and those pitches are not remembered with the fondest of memories (unless you are a Luton Town fan) as they disappeared in the early 1990’s.

This week, Sutton United manager Paul Doswell  issued a rallying cry to the club’s supporters in a bid to help the U’s break into the Football League.

paul doswell

Sutton United manager Paul Doswell

As mentioned, Doswell’s team are currently in second place  in the Vanarama National League with eight games left and have a real chance of promotion to the EFL for the first time in the club’s 120-year history.

However, as discussed on the show, Sutton’s 3G pitch is currently not permitted in the EFL and any rule change on the issue will come too late for the U’s who are assessing their options with the season’s climax rapidly approaching.

With the club doing so well, manager Doswell joined Twitter and posted a series of messages giving an update on the current situation. He also encouraged fans to do their bit in helping make the club’s dream of league football become a reality.

“Last few months have been investigating all our options and making sure whatever we do was right for the club, the supporters and most cost effective as every pound is massive still to us,” said the Sutton boss.

“We were clearly hoping that we could retain the 3G. However with no vote planned, option B is in place.

“Our biggest dilemma is losing our community model which we all fiercely believe in.

“The solution is; Having been advised by industry experts if we get promoted, we will install a hybrid grass pitch in the main stadium. This will allow 25/30 hours of use per week.

“We are also looking to install the same pitch in Collingwood Rec which combined would give us circa 55 hours use per week the same as we currently have from the 3G.”

GanderGreenLane

 

The 3G Pitch at Sutton United’s Gander Green Lane

With last years FA Cup giant- killers flying high in the National League, speculation has been rife as to what might happen should they earn the historic promotion to the EFL.

It is clear that the artificial surface is more than just a football pitch, transforming the fortunes of the club with hundreds of people of all ages using the facility every week, making Sutton United exactly what a football club should be: a real hub of the community.

Doswell furthered added that the prospect of a ground share had been considered but wouldn’t be happening: “No ground share, community model retained. We have also had extensive meetings regards required ground improvements and everything is achievable if we mobilise the Sutton FC family.

“We are a fans owned club and we look to the recent example of Stevenage fans raising £600,000 in 6 weeks for a new stand for their club.

“We require a similar amount for our project. Can we do it? I believe we can and initiatives are currently being thought through.

“If League 2 happens we will be ready for the biggest and most important meeting in the club’s recent history when we will outline how all of us can contribute.”

gander green

 

Sutton United players warming up

With 8 games to go Sutton United remain only 3 points behind leaders Macclesfield Town. IF the famous promotion was to be achieved, there a certainly a few more ‘crucial conversations’ to be had.

An EFL spokesman as recently as December 2017 said the league were “aware of the commercial and financial opportunities” provided by artificial pitches, and added that clubs were debating the issue as part of their ongoing stadium criteria review.

Football League clubs voted against allowing artificial pitches in February 2015 after a ballot about their introduction in League One and League Two the previous November ended in a tie.

This remains a contentious issue but with so many clubs in the bottom two-tiers of the EFL struggling financially, this is an issue I can see being discussed again very soon at board room level, especially with the chance to create a facility that is community based and viable. Despite the numerous studies around 3G pitches and the potenital risks they carry

Richard Piggford
By Richard Piggford March 26, 2018 16:12

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