Synthetic Turf A Financial Lifeline For Football League Clubs
Tue 29th May 2012 | Football Stadiums & Facilities
The European Synthetic Turf Organisation (ESTO) has stressed the positive financial implications that synthetic turf can have for professional football clubs, in advance of the impending decision from the Football League following its recent review into the use of artificial surfaces.
The ESTO FansConcept, a report published by the organisation, promotes a scheme that encourages clubs to work with supporters to fund club purchases of synthetic turf. This report, alongside the recent KPMG research further backs the financial and commercial claims made by ESTO and a host of Football League clubs in the build up to this month’s decision by the league on whether to allow their member clubs to play competitive fixtures on synthetic turf.
The ESTO FansConcept forecasts that a club can generate up to £400,000 a year in new, additional revenue based on a conservative 70% usage of the available hire time of the newly laid synthetic turf pitch. For League Two clubs, this is almost equal to the payments received from the Football League in television rights payments, which in 2011/12 was £450,000.
League two side Accrington Stanley, a club which went out of business half way through the 1961/62 season has, like a number of Football League clubs continued to face financial difficulties since their promotion back to the league in 2006 and is one of the first clubs to advocate the use of synthetic turf in professional football.
Speaking at a recent ESTO media briefing, Rob Heys, managing director of Accrington Stanley FC said: “The option to be allowed to install a synthetic turf pitch could mean the difference between financial success and failure; not just for a football league club like Accrington but for many lower league clubs too.
“At the current time we estimate our pitch is used 52 hours a season. A synthetic turf pitch would allow could be used for first team and academy training, for community use and for commercial hire rather than just 23 home matches a season, cup games and friendlies.
“This means cost savings for the club in terms of maintenance and venue hire and increased revenues from hiring the pitch to local teams, coaching camps and other community based activities. For a team in League One or League Two, this could be the difference between survival and going out of business.”
Switching to using synthetic turf does not only guarantee a better playing surface in terms of its consistency and quality, but, with UEFA and FIFA both in support of the use of synthetic surfaces a positive result from the Football League would allow to England to play catch up with the rest of Europe, with 23 major leagues now having teams that play their home matches on synthetic turf.
Commenting on the financial benefits of synthetic turf, Nigel Fletcher, executive chairman of ESTO, said: “In the last decade, 23 of the 92 professional clubs in England have entered into some form of administration; eight of which have done so more than once. The introduction of synthetic turf will provide a much-needed financial boost for clubs and our findings from the ESTO FansConcept proves that the business model works.”
The results of the consultation period, which closed on 30 April 2012, will be released as part of a report to all Member Clubs, when the issues will be debated at Football League Board meetings and at the Chairmen’s Conference on 31 May / 01 June 2012.
Posted by: Aaron Gourley
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