‘3G’ (Third Generation) is an artificial sports surface created using synthetic fibres and rubbers, made to look like grass.

3G pitches have been in the news much more prevalently over the last decade as football clubs based in the UK look to make the most of the far more sustainable running costs they are associated with. The 2014/15 football season saw 3G pitches permitted by the Football Association for every round of the FA Cup, while Kent-based Maidstone United were allowed by the Conference to use their 3G pitch for the upcoming Conference South season in 2015/16.

The FA’s laws prior to the start of the season just finished stated that nay use of a 3G pitch after the first round of the FA Cup was prohibited. Lower league teams who cannot afford to keep genuine pitches in good condition throughout the year, especially in the winter, are now heavily reliant on 3G pitches to ensure games are not postponed due to waterlogging etc.

Interestingly, artificial sport surfaces have already been debated in the English game, almost 20 years ago. At the time, it was decided that artificial surfaces should be banned from use in professional football. These pitches were trialled at clubs across the Professional Football league spectrum, including sides such as QPR, Luton Town, Oldham Athletic and Preston North End, all of whom tried them out during the 1980’s.

At the start of the 2014/15 season, FA general secretary Alex Horne told the BBC that “Clubs are increasingly seeing the benefits of using these artificial surfaces across the football pyramid and clubs who play on those surfaces can now retain home advantage in the competition.”

Mr Horne continued, “These pitches are a very useful asset and capable of delivering 50-plus hours per week as compared to a natural turf pitch, which can deliver perhaps five hours per week. The value of 3G pitches has been clearly demonstrated during the recent wet weather where leagues within the grassroots game have migrated to them to address fixture backlogs.”

One of the main reasons for the introduction of artificial pitches this season comes down to the successes of Maidstone United who we replaying in the Ryman League during the 2013/14 season. Maidstone United were only recently reformed as a football club. Maidstone have won promotion to the Conference South this season but this was under threat after the Conference voted against the reintroduction of artificial surfaces.

However, the Conference board made a U-turn on this decision prior to Maidstone’s successes and are now permitted to enter the Conference with their 3G pitch intact. The Conference issued the following statement which issued a new stance on ATP’s (Artificial Turf Pitches). “At the pre-season meeting of clubs in membership of the Vanarama Conference for season 2014/15 an update was issued on the use of ARPS (artificial turf pitches) in the competition.”

“Following recent dialogues with the Football associations and Football League, the Football Conferences board intends to allow the competition matches to be played on ATPs in all three divisions from the start of the 2015/16 season.”

“Such approval will only be given where surfaces meet the standards of installation and criterion for use, which re to be agreed by the respective authorities.”

The FA’s decision was welcomed by Sport Minister and Member of Parliament for Maidstone and The Weald Helen Grant at the time, who was partially responsible for the Conferences decision to overturn their original stance on 3G pitches.

Speaking before the start of the 2014/15 season, Mrs Grant said “It’s not just Maidstone United that might benefit from such a move (the FA’s approval of ATPs in the FA Cup). Smaller clubs up and down the country that already use these pitches would receive a boost, and I want to see more of them across our communities.”

Article provided by Sovereign Sports, a Sussex based tennis court installation and sports surface specialist with over 40 years of trading as a family company.