Monday, 6 February 2012

Time for 3G?

In my role as press secretary for the Altrincham and District Amateur Saturday Football League and player in the Sunday equivalent, the sight of 'match postponed' has become all too familiar in recent weeks. The cold snap hit extremely hard in December and January and it doesn't appear to be showing any signs of letting up as we enter February, causing a hefty fixture backlog in both leagues.

The 3G pitch phenomenon is growing fast 

A major issue for amateur football leagues is cramming in all these postponed matches at the end of campaigns, when clubs who have nothing left to play for struggle to field eleven players for a largely unappealing mid-week evening fixture. Title chasers and relegation candidates are being handed victories without even kicking a ball and it is ultimately the credibility of the leagues which is suffering as the fates of clubs are decided in a committee room as oppose to on the field of play.

The only match to go ahead at the weekend in the Saturday League was Baroni FC vs Northenden Victoria. Why? Because the home side play their games on a 3G pitch at Albert Park in Salford.

Surely increased investment into pitches of this kind would be a massive step forward for amateur football, despite the concerns that many hold in terms of their viability. Let's not forget that the 2008 Champions League final was played on synthetic turf at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. If it's good enough to grace the immense talents of Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba in the biggest game in club football, it's good enough to host amateur games on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.

On 1 December 2011 the FA announced a £200 million four-year investment into grass roots football with one of the main priorities being to maximise investment in facilities. As well as aiding the smooth running of amateur football leagues, implementing flood-lit 3G pitches around the country would considerably benefit the development of young talent by allowing the game to be played all-year-round under safe and well-replicated conditions. Those at the top of the game didn't get there by taking their foot off the gas in the winter months. Potential stars need to be nurtured thoroughly if they're to replicate the feats of their idols and the growing influence of 3G pitches could well prove pivotal to preventing promising youngsters from falling by the wayside.

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