Synthetic turf pitches are set to make a return to all levels of English football following a recent meeting of the FA Board.
Chaired by FA Chairman Greg Dyke, the 12-person committee agreed to lead by example and seek to change the perception of synthetic turf across the top tiers of English football by voting to allow the use of synthetic turf across all levels of the English game.
The issue has recently been brought to light by Ryman Premier League side Maidstone United, who, despite currently in second place, the club has been told it won’t be allowed to compete in the play-offs due to the restriction on the use of synthetic turf in higher leagues. Maidstone United installed the synthetic turf surface in 2012 and has since reported demonstrable benefits from the new pitch; fewer fixtures cancelled due to inclement weather, greater engagement with community groups and clubs and increasing sustainable revenues from the hire of the new facility. With Maidstone providing compelling evidence to support the wider benefits of synthetic turf and some excellent examples of clubs at the highest levels of European football competing on synthetic turf, The English FA have now acted to look at aligning their rules with those of other major football associations.
As part of the ruling, The FA will be reviewing the rules for The FA Cup, England’s oldest cup competition, to allow the use of synthetic turf in fixtures leading up to the semi-finals.
Commenting on the news, Nigel Fletcher, ESTO executive chairman, said: “This is a significant development for the synthetic turf industry; the reintroduction of the surface in England will help clubs and communities develop football and strengthen the sport at all levels of the pyramid. We only have to look at case studies in Scotland, Norway and the Netherlands to see how clubs can benefit on and off the field. For many lower league clubs, synthetic turf is a major asset and the driver of football development.
“The decision by the Football Association shows fantastic progress and follows best practice in Europe. For clubs at semi-professional and lower league levels this will revolutionise English football; having synthetic turf will ensure club, youth and community development thanks to the many advantages that exist from installing synthetic turf.”
In recent years, ESTO has focused on consumer research within clubs and football associations throughout Europe and at all levels of the sport, to encourage the advocacy of the surface. All of which makes ever stronger arguments for using the surface across all levels of the game. Independent research, publications and case studies can be viewed online at https://www.estc.info/knowledge-centre.
Further details regarding the FA’s decision will be released in due course.