As the weather begins to get cold and wet, and the pitches start to become boggy and muddy, it is only timely that the debate on the use of artificial pitches in the Football League begins.
A vote between the 72 members of the FL, tied 34 aside (with 4 abstaining), on whether clubs in Leagues One and Two should be allowed to use artificial pitches from next season. Meaning that for one more season at least we will not see anything other than grass pitches in use in the professional game in England.
Although next season, the three Conference Leagues have agreed on the use of artificial pitches, and they are already permitted to be used in the FA Cup and UEFA competitions.
Modern artificial 3G pitches, are a far cry from the hard AstroTurf pitches used in the league by Preston, Luton, QPR and Oldham, when they were permitted for use between 1981 and 1994.
The old AstroTurf was effectively a green carpet laid on top of a concrete base, which provided very little cushioning and caused significant risk of joint injury as well as unnatural movement of the ball compared to grass pitches.
The modern day equivalent however comprises a series of synthetic fibres woven to replicate the blades of grass, which sit on a bed of rubber crump or sand, intended to reduce the bounce of the ball and provide a more natural movement as well as provide a greater level of cushioning to reduce impact.
Whilst the 3G pitches are still unused by professional clubs, they are not unfamiliar with them, with many clubs having had them as part of their training grounds for over a decade now. And even a large number of schools and sports centres have them in place for leisure use.
The cost of installing these pitches currently stands at £500,000, which is a significant outlay for most clubs. But it is yet to be seen whether there will be any form of reimbursement to a club that does install one. However having a 3G pitch does allow the possibility of hiring out the venue at spare times, which would provide clubs with additional revenue.
Whilst these 3G pitches are a much improved version of the AstroTurf, they are not perfect, when the pitch is dry, balls have a tendency to bounce and bobble their way to their recipient rather than rolling or skidding, which does slow the play down somewhat.
And while this is not so much an issue in non-league and amateur football it could restrict sides that enjoy passing the ball around quickly in the Football League. However, muddy, boggy and waterlogged pitches do not make enjoyable surfaces for ‘attractive’ football either.
A number of leagues in Europe have seen teams already using artificial pitches, including Serie A and the Eredivisie, so surely it will not be long before we are seeing them used in the English leagues.