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Football League clubs push for return of Artificial Pitches

Fri 18th Nov 2011 | Football Stadiums & Facilities

Wycombe Wanderers and Accrington Stanley are calling for a return to artificial pitches in a bid to cut costs and increase revenue.

Speaking to the BBC, Wycombe vice-chairman Brian Kane said, "Within 10 years, we will see quite a number of pitches."

His comments where reflected by Accrington Stanley chief executive Rob Heys who said: "There's been a change of opinion recently. There is an appetite for them."

Luton Town, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers all possessed artificial pitches until they were outlawed by the Football Association in the late 1980s, although Preston continued to use theirs until the end of the 1993-94 season.

However, the development of artificial surface has seen them return to use by several lower-division sides in Scotland, while the FA permits their use in such competitions as the FA Trophy, FA Vase and Women's Premier League.

These hi-tech pitches are approved by world governing body FIFA, while UEFA, which runs football in Europe, allows Champions League ties to be played on artificial surfaces.

“I thought a move towards a return to artificial surfaces would never happen but I sense that has changed now” added Kane but accepts that the reintroduction of artificial pitches might not be universally welcomed.

"When I first started talking to people about this, they thought about the old pitches," said Kane, who first considered the possibility of a synthetic surface at Adams Park three years ago.

"At one point, I thought a move towards a return to artificial surfaces would never happen but I sense that has changed now."

The interest comes from clubs at the lower end of the Football League, where the potential revenue boost combined with benefits to community schemes would have a significant impact.

"Accrington is a very traditional club, we sell real football," said Heys. "But more and more - and I think a lot of people in the Football League feel like this - the commercial benefits are starting to shout up."

Heys estimates that the cost of installing an artificial pitch would be around £500,000, which would be recouped through increased revenue streams.

"There is an income to be gained from hiring the pitch out and money to be saved in maintenance costs and the fact that you can train on it," he explained.

"The community benefit is that you can get people down to the ground seven days a week rather than just 23 times a season for home fixtures."

It’s understood that discussions have already taken place among League officials and clubs.

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