House of Payne: Non-League should see the world in 3G
8:00am Sunday 9th February 2014 in Sport
Only one match got played in the Ryman Premier League on Saturday and Kingstonian may well have wished it hadn’t as they lost 3-0 at home to Maidstone United, writes John Payne.
It’s not the first time Maidstone have been the only team to beat the fixture schedule – the only unusual thing on Saturday was that it wasn’t for a home game.
Their new Gallagher stadium, completed in the summer of 2012, was the first ground in the country to be built with an artificial 3G surface.
The Stones’ on-pitch success has reignited a controversy previously laid to rest in the early 1990s when the likes of QPR, Luton, Oldham and Preston were deemed to have gained an unfair advantage by playing home games on ‘plastic’.
At the time, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was one of the harshest critics.
The technology of the pitches has moved on and, so surely, should the argument.
After taking his then club Brighton for the opening match at the new venue, Gus Poyet described the surface as “magnificent” and “perfection”.
However, in many quarters, the debate remains stuck in the early 1990s with the suits that run the Conference last week having ruled that matches must be played on grass until the end of the 2014-15 season.
That means should second-placed Maidstone win promotion, they will have to find another surface to play on.
Even when it doesn’t rain – and let’s face it, we get enough of the stuff – you can only use a grass surface so many times before it starts to wear out.
Sutton United already play in the Skrill South and manager Paul Doswell, an advocate of bringing a 3G pitch to Gander Green Lane, has spoken of the nonsense of having “a business that is open for just one day a fortnight”.
Lower league clubs are throwing away the chance to really put themselves at the heart of the community. If they don’t take that opportunity, they will only have themselves to blame if they find their “businesses” unsustainable.