Should an artificial pitch be laid at the County Ground?

The return of artificial pitches to the Football League has been backed by club chairmen in League One and Two. The BBC has reported that at a meeting on Thursday they gave a strong indication they would vote in favour of permitting 3G (“third generation”) surfaces from next season, before the League takes a formal vote in November. This theoretically could lead to a 3G pitch being laid at the County Ground.

Some will remember the plastic pitches at Loftus Road, Deepdale, Kenilworth Road and Boundary Park. Those awful surfaces seemed long-gone after artificial surfaces were banned from English professional football in 1995 over issues with ball roll and bounce and fears over long-term injuries; but could now return, even at the County Ground.

Just yesterday, the Swindon Advertiser reported on Town’s groundsman, Marcus Cassidy, being decisive in turning the County Ground into a “fortress” this season in the words of Louis Thompson. The midfielder praised Town’s approach to invest in the natural grass playing surface adding “I think that comes down to the groundsman (Cassidy), what he’s doing with the pitch. It really helps us when we’re trying to play out from the back and cuts out any errors you can put down to the surface.”

Town have always been renowned for presenting a quality playing surface, but is it time to rip it up and go artificial? One obvious issue is the move towards allowing 3G will apply to Leagues One and Two, so any promotion chasing team such as Swindon will undoubtedly have second thoughts about installing a 3G pitch.

However, mindful of Town’s playing style, the introduction of 3G surfaces elsewhere, particularly grounds where poor cut up surfaces have hindered a passing style, could be seen as benefiting the away side; or at least providing a level playing field…

We’ve two questions for you below. Firstly, give your thoughts on whether you support the introduction of 3G pitches in Leagues One and Two; and secondly, your thoughts on the benefits or otherwise of installing an artificial pitch at the County Ground.

Also, you can elaborate on your answers using the comments section below… 

Pic from guardian.com

4 comments

  • There are too many ne’re done anything cabinet ministers and know it all spiv business execs, all with egos bigger than their long term interest in their ministry or league club football, who want to make their mark when what is needed is a bit of love and some personal humility.

    Grass is a wonderful surface that can vary with the weather and conditions. With drainage, love and skill it is unbeatable.

    Why try and engineer opportinities for the usual suspects with no love of the game to make a few false bucks with soulless 3G artificial pitches? If you want a consistent pitch, watch bald John Green and Swindon Swoodlipoopers, which at least is still quirky.

    FFS get a decent groundsman and if you like decent drainage and even undersoil heating, Simples!

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  • Why on earth would we want an artificial pitch at the County ground? We have a tremendous playing surface here all year round and for that reason alone don’t need it. If the club has ambitions of promotion, which I believe they have, this would be pointless because as I understand it the pitches won’t be allowed in the championship anyway. The ground staff at Swindon do a fantastic job and we are proud of the quality of our surface, football should be played on the surface it was meant for GRASS

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  • As a Norwegian (and Swindon supporter), I’m used to the artificial pitches (AP) as we’ve used them for years. The climate is of course a big influence on why half of the clubs in the two top-divisions have opted for AP. Several clubs reported injuries on older players (30+ years) after changing surface as they struggle with changing from normal grass to AP during training and matches.

    My home team, IK Start Kristiansand had one of the best pitches in Norway as both groundsmen were educated as greenkeepers, but the city consil of Kristiansand (who partly owns the stadium) forced the club top change to AP as the pitch can be used more often. The club have been struggeling financially and is relegated and promoted every third year (quite similar to Swindon). I’m working at the stadium as my company rents office spaces here, so I can verify that the pitch is used a lot now. Wikipedia article for the stadium: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B8r_Arena

    I don’t understand why the AP should be allowed only for League One and Two. As the AP is UEFA and FIFA approved (Tromsø played in the Europa League against Tottenham 28th of November 2013 on AP), why isn’t it allowed for the Championship and Premier League? A club who has any ambition of promotion will not use their money on a pitch that needs to be changes if they are promoted. A change to AP would be like saying to the supporters that the club has no ambition above the League One.

    Plusses on AP:
    -A natural surface can be used approx 6-8 hours per week, but the AP can be used 40-50 hours.
    -The pitch is perfect even after playing all the matches during winter with rain, snow and cold.
    -The maintenance cost is much lower. E.g. there are less costs related to watering the pitch (I don’t know how much the cost are for water in England, but the clubs here save a lot). After a match, the groundsman run a tractor over the pitch with a rake and the pitch is ready again.
    -There can be played more kids tournaments that (hopefully) will stay Swindon-supporters and maybe play on the senior-team later.
    -There are less damage on the pitch if a concert is arranged ( I know that the last concerts on County Ground weren’t that successfull)

    Minuses on AP:
    -The AP needs to be changed completely after 3-6 years depending on wear and tear, so it’s not like that once the AP is ready, there are no more expences.
    -Older players have reported injuries (ancles, knees etc) as they struggle with training/playing on different surfaces.

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    • a small follow-up to my comment:
      According to this article: http://www.ba.no/sport/fotball/brann/article6712936.ece (in Norwegian, but use Google translate to get any sense out of it), IK Start saves around £100.000 every year after changing to AP compared to normal grass. The cost of changing to AP was 5,5 mill NOK = £550.000. An other team from Trondheim; Rosenborg BK changed their natural grass as the old one was too damaged during the winter matches in Europa League and it cost them £180.000 for a new normal grass pitch (but they only changed the top of the pitch).

      Like

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