As we progress through November, the nights lengthen, the temperatures drop and the weather becomes even more intolerable. Football, being the northern hemisphere’s winter sport of choice, is also faced with a problem. While maintaining a pitch that resembles the Queen’s lawn may be easy in August and September when there are ample hours of daylight, pitches begin to resemble closer to a ploughed field come January.
The introduction of artificial pitches was seen in some quarters as the solution to this problem. A number of British clubs installed them in the 1980’s but the FA banned them in 1988 as they were much harder and seemed to cause more injuries than grass and were also deemed less aesthetically pleasing to supporters than grass. Pitches have moved on from the nasty, knee-grazing sand-based astroturf that most of use are still subjected to at our weekly five a-side games. The structure of the artificial turf has been tinkered with to produce the new 3G pitches and they have been reintroduced on a number of pitches, particularly in Eastern Europe. Many people still have doubts however.
The proponents of artificial grass would say that it allows grounds that are subjected to regular low temperatures and high precipitation to have to cancel games less often. After the last two harsh winters in Britain, this must surely be a consideration here as well. Given how crowded the Christmas schedule is, and how much money this period generates for clubs, would being able to guarantee the games going ahead not be a good thing? You might also argue that the brand of football you can play on artificial pitches will be better than that on a bumpy field. I am definitely far more certain of my first touch when I do not have to worry about the divots and mud of an icy Scottish pitch.
Those against suggest that the bounce of the ball is not quite natural on artificial turf and that it skips off the surface in an expected manner. This was the complaint of the Spurs team as they got off to a poor start in their Champions League qualifier against Young Boys. The question about injuries still remains as well and although studies have shown there is no greater chance of obtaining an injury through playing on artificial pitches various managers have been vocal in their dislike of it on these grounds. Personally, with the evidence to the contrary, and the fact that millions of us play regularly on these pitches with no ill-effect, I am not sure that they have a case.
What do you think? Which do you prefer? Would it be a welcome addition to the British game?