After a mild start to Winter, the weather has started to take its toll on football matches across the country writes Bonar Yarns
On Boxing Day a total of 18 professional matches were called off, with many more semi-professional and amateur games postponed and/or cancelled across the UK. The disruption continued into the New Year, with some clubs still struggling to recover from one of the wettest and most destructive Christmas periods on record.
The shocking images of the floods which affected Carlisle’s Brunton Park, various grounds across Yorkshire and Lancashire showed the devastation caused and the challenge teams now face in regards to recovery. A postponed or cancelled game can place strain on smaller club’s revenue; as traditionally the boxing day and New Year’s Day matches are always well attended – the same cannot be said, however, for the re-arranged matches on a cold mid-week when fans had already went back to school or work.
Match-day takings in club shops and bars are a significant revenue stream for clubs at Christmas – no games mean no footfall, further reducing the club’s ability to make money or increase participation in the sport throughout the local community.
A case in point was Braintree Town, who had four successive fixtures postponed – three at home – and five out of the last six matches, which can put a huge strain on resources. The fixtures pile up is also a concern to the club, with several matches over a short space of time tough on semi-professional players with other jobs and responsibilities.
One solution for these clubs would be to synthetic. While 3G pitches are only permitted in top flight FA Cup matches, the National League has recently changed its position so that they can now be used for league games from 2015-16. The increasing number of teams in England and Scotland which have moved to synthetic, highlights a significantly improved outlook for some who struggled with extreme weather conditions.
In addition, a synthetic pitch would allow the clubs facilities to be used by the community around the clock, bringing in much needed revenue as well as increasing popularity and participation in the sport. As seen from the surfaces installed at Queen of the South, Saracens and Newcastle Falcons, 3G provides clubs with an excellent playing surface, and encourages good technical football skills – which is essential for the development of the grass-roots game.
Keynsham Town, who play in the Western League division one, made the switch to synthetic in 2011, securing funding from the Football Foundation, who work in association with the FA and Premier League, with community involvement guaranteed as part of the agreement.
Clubs can apply for funding from £10,000 up to £500,000 for projects aimed at improving facilities in grassroots football; however, these pitches must be available for use seven days a week, for a minimum of 85 hours by local teams and groups.
Keynsham Club Secretary Julian French recently told the Bath Chronicle that “Day in and day out, it can be used for hire externally, and also for training twice a week. It also means there’s no worry about weather and you can turn up on a Saturday with the game guaranteed to be on. We’re an FA Community Charter Standard club, which is the highest level you can achieve, and that’s helped by having these facilities. It’s used by juniors from the age of five, and fosters good will within the town.”
Stefan Diderich of Bonar Yarns, the manufacturers behind the high quality yarn used in the Queen of the South Palmerston Park pitch, said “Synthetic turf is becoming an increasingly viable and popular option for both professional and semi-professional football teams, not only as a good sporting decision but one that makes clear business sense. Turf protects clubs from cancelled games or postponements whilst providing a facility, which can be used extensively year-round. Not only can a 3G pitch encourage goodwill from the local community, but provide an income which can be invested back into the club.”
A successful Football Association enterprise to invest £260 million in 600 new all-weather pitches has seen an increase in participation by the FA, bringing the number of pitches into line with some European counterparts. This is a much needed investment in grass-roots, which will provide great opportunities for the next generation of young male and female players.
Synthetic Turf could be on the cards for the future of football.
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