The European Synthetic Turf Organisation (ESTO) has pledged its commitment to profiling the benefits of synthetic turf in sport, as it champions a positive decision in advance of the Football League’s review into the use of artificial surfaces next month.
The results of the consultation period, which closed on 30 April 2012, will be released as part of a report to all Member Clubs, when the issues will be debated at Football League Board meetings and at the Chairmen’s Conference on 31 May / 01 June 2012.
The use of synthetic turf in professional football is prevalent throughout the top tiers of the sport in Italy, Holland and France, as well as European competitions including the Europa League and Champions League; indicative of the backing already in place from both UEFA and FIFA.
The option to switch to using synthetic turf does not only guarantee a better playing surface in terms of its consistency and quality, but, significantly, meets a requirement which underpins decisions made by the majority of football clubs, that is, the assurance of financial sustainability.
A synthetic turf pitch provides clubs with a substantial additional revenue stream, by enabling the use of the pitch and the ground’s facilities for commercial use; consequently, it also facilitates wider engagement between the club and its fans and the local community.
Commenting on the impending result from the Football League review, Nigel Fletcher, executive chairman of ESTO, said: “The introduction of synthetic turf within professional football is not only of positive significance to the club itself, but also for a country’s football development strategy; Holland and Italy are just two affirmative examples of this.
“As one of the world’s leading footballing nations, the next step is to allow English clubs the option to experience the momentous benefits that can be created by synthetic turf, for both the Football League clubs and the entire non-league structure.”
The decision will follow the recent announcement from the Football League that will see the implementation of its own Financial Fair Play regulations across all three divisions, based on the similar rulings already in place by UEFA for teams in the top divisions across Europe.
“In the last decade, 23 of the 92 professional clubs in England have entered into some form of administration; eight of which have done so more than once. The introduction of synthetic turf will provide a much-needed financial boost for clubs and a recent report by KPMG, commissioned by ESTO, proves that the business model works,” confirms Nigel Fletcher.
“During my time at FIFA and in my capacity as executive chairman of ESTO, I saw many immediate and positive benefits for clubs who switched to synthetic turf; club development enhanced, community initiatives were established and youth development programmes were launched all because of the durability and quality of the playing surface.
“No longer did you need a sign saying ‘keep off the pitch’. The new pitch was the starting point for a club’s sustainable development, both on and off the pitch, and one must not forget that for many smaller clubs, the pitch can be their most important asset,” explains Nigel Fletcher.
Rob Heys, chief executive of Football League Two side Accrington Stanley, is one of the long-term advocates of a return to synthetic turf. Commenting on how clubs can benefit from synthetic turf, Rob said: “The commercial benefits of installing a synthetic turf pitch really do stack up as there is an income to be gained from hiring the pitch out and money to be saved in maintenance costs.
“The fact we can use the pitch for training as well as the benefit to the community, from getting people down to the ground seven days a week rather than just 23 times a season for home fixtures, would make a massive difference to a club of our size and, I believe, a number of other Football League clubs, all of whom are constantly looking at new ways to generate revenue to continue operating.”
ESTO will be holding a media briefing today (17/05/12) at the Sofitel, St. James, London. The event will profile the benefits and successes of synthetic turf within sport, in advance of the impending announcement from the Football League next month.