Debate still rages about the status of the actual stadia for the tournament but I’m sure a country like Brazil – with its climate and love for the game – will make sure the pitches themselves are immaculate… silky smooth, lush and verdant. In less exotic climes such as ours, however, and on a slightly different scale, it’s actually quite tricky to maintain a natural football pitch, when in some months they will even freeze over (bet Neymar never had to deal with that one!) Natural turf also needs water, but too much and it will become waterlogged. And even after all that, someone also has to mark the pitch out and continue to keep the white lines clear after regular play. And Groundskeeper George is getting older by the day…
It’s therefore not surprising that artificial grass became such a welcome option when it first appeared throughout the leagues in the UK, whether professional or non-professional. It was seemingly too good to be true – no watering, no maintenance, able to be used inside or out, and with lines that stayed pristine and white. Originally called AstroTurf, these pitches appeared all over the country. Even Luton Town.
However, issues soon came to the fore. The surface was much bouncier and was said to cause injuries and the quality of football was therefore reduced. Net result… teams hated going to play at Luton and Astroturf was banned from the Football League. In addition, it was also felt that the surfaces were hard on football boots, reducing their usable life.
Football on artificial grass gets better
Certainly, there may have been problems, but technology has improved massively and with the new generation of 3G pitches many of these issues are a thing of the past… gone the same way as mullets and Showaddywaddy. These new pitches are made with artificial grass that resembles the real stuff as closely as possible. Some artificial grass even contains fake ‘dead’ bits, to engender an even greater authenticity.
In terms of damage to the football boots, advances have also been made with the shoes themselves. Some manufacturers have created soleplates with greater traction, specifically for playing on artificial grass. Other players choose to keep the faith with their usual moulded stud boots, arguing that the rubber fleck in the artificial pitch actually assists traction.
So, agreed, back in the 1970s perhaps these issues did exist, both with the artificial pitches and their effect on football boots. However, we live in a different age, with much better artificial surfaces, in terms of both construction and appearance. Many clubs are now considering the benefits: all weather, no maintenance, huge cost savings and the fact old George won’t have to go out in the snow to redraw the lines. In fact, 3G pitches are increasingly being laid all across the world. Leagues 1 and 2 in the English tiered system are now considering them.
And guess what… Luton Town were promoted to League 2 this season. Watch this space!
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