Football League Moves Closer To Artificial Pitches As Clubs Tire Of Winter Weather Postponements

Alan Duffy

16th, February 2012


By Alan Duffy

El Tel tests the new surface at QPR in 1981

Anyone of a certain vintage will remain those infamous astro-turf pitches at Loftus Road and Kenilworth Road in the 1980’s. Back then, the hard, rubbery synthetic surfaces had more in common with concrete than natural grass, with the ball bouncing higher than Per Mertesacker sitting on Peter Crouch’s shoulders while he jumps on a trampoline.

Ultimately the pitches were themselves ripped up, with Preston North End’s artificial Deepdale surface the last to go in 1994, as traditionalists won the day and the grass returned.

However, following a meeting of clubs in Derby on this week, the Football League has decided to unveil a public consultation on the possibility of re-introducing plastic pitches, which will run until April.

Rob Heys, Accrington Stanley’s Chief Executive, said:

“I am very pleased. The Football League might be one of the oldest leagues in the world but it is very forward thinking. It is another big step that it is being considered. The Football League has put a lot of time into the document and will also do so in gathering the results.”

“There is a lot of positive feeling, not so much that everyone wants one (an artificial pitch) but there has been a definite drop in opposition to them.”

The Football League members meet again at their summer conference at the end of May, when they will analyse the findings of the consultation and potentially move forward with the project.

With so many pitches turned into waterlogged mudbaths every winter, and with astro-turf technology having moved well beyond those unrealistic 80’s plastic catastrophies, surely the time has come to give them another go? Also, with maintenance much lower for artifical pitches, it does makes economic sense.

Oh, that photo of Terry Venables reminded me, the former England boss once co-wrote a football-based novel called “They Use To Play On Grass”. It’s not very good, mind.

Check out these classic mid-eighties London derby between QPR and Spurs played on that infamous plastic pitch…

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  1. `Alex Mcleish Anti-football says:

    Looks like the Qpr and Spurs players are wearing regular sneakers and not football boots.

  2. Rick says:

    Here is the thing with the plastic pitch, it must be the right type. There are different ways of making them. I live in the US and have experienced many of the different types. The most commone type has shredded pieces of rubber. The rubber makes the ball bounce and is not good for football. If you watch highlights from the seattle sounders keep an eye on the ball. When it is wet, its similar to a wet pitch and is the ideal way to play on the plastic pitch, but when its dry the ball bounces too much.

  3. Jeff says:

    Sounds like a fantastic idea. Much easier to slide on wet turf than grass. Tore a couple ligaments in my right knee thanks to that.

  4. WildScotsman6 says:

    The video made me miss the days when stadiums packed crowds like that! Great atmosphere! As for pitch conditions.. it does make economic sense for smaller clubs. But injuries and football itself will suffer.

  5. usrick says:

    Plastic turf – even the newer and less bad versions – limits or eliminates the “slide” or “give” of natural turf and are therefore more stressful on the ankles and knees. Any adoption of plastic turf fields should begin with just a venue or two which should be evaluated for the number of types of injuries that occur on them.

  6. fouldsy says:

    what it all comes down to is this choice… games being postponed because of bad weather or games being effected by strange rubber grass.

  7. Archbishop Betty Snagcock says:

    @fouldsy: but look at the artificial pitch at the 2010 world cup, you couldn’t even notice that it was artificial, or as one player put it “only a cow could tell that it wasn’t grass”

  8. Bigrat says:

    Artificial pitches in SouthAfrica? Please share, which stadium is this? Im sitting in johannesburg as i type this!!!

  9. Nabillion says:

    fake plastic footballs on fake grass! Nice

  10. Guero says:

    Being a collegiate soccer/football player at the Division two level, here in the States, I have to defend the use of turf. Especially in the winter months. Now, I am a traditionalist but my College’s turf field is a great surface to play on. Yes, the ball does bounce higher but it doesn’t have that much of an effect on the game. More over, here in Colorado we can trail all year round because the turf is easy to maintain in cold weather. Turf is a great solution for smaller club that cannot afford constant pitch maintenance in the winter.

  11. Del says:

    Agree with Guero above, the bigger clubs have the money to keep their pitch perfect all year round but if anyone’s every stayed up past midnight to watch the football league show and seen the state of some of the pitches clubs have to play on, well lets just say you can’t blame em for looking at their options!

  12. werderbremen_rulez says:

    fuck, that ruins football – astro turf plasticky pitches… thanks, but no thanks!

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