The grass is always greener and 3G spots in the EFL are a bad idea despite Tracey Crouch’s commitment to the idea …
A hot Thursday in the UK with the country working up a sweat and sports fans mourning the euros and thinking about seeing the opening ceremony of the Olympics or, God forbid, the Cricket Hundred.
Thank the Lord for Tracey Crouch’s letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports at the fan-led review of football governance. Exactly what everyone needs with their posh Marks & Spencer dog grill, a nice piece of dry football reform …
I’m excited to publish my interim results from the fan-led review of football governance, which includes recommendations for an independent regulator, a golden share on specific issues of heritage, and greatly improved governance across football. My full letter is at https://t.co/ze2mZ6JkKH
– Tracey Crouch (@tracey_crouch) July 22, 2021
There were many good things in the letter, especially the focus on an independent regulator, enough to rush those elements of football who love to play in the shadows for their offshore account passcodes.
Of course, the killer section of the letter was the one titled “Navigating Financial Gaps,” a somewhat nondescript way of describing the cash abyss between the top and bottom of the game.
Crouch’s determination to allow artificial turf in the lower leagues is therefore little more than window dressing, which can do more harm than good.
“I am keen to recommend removing barriers to revenue generation in lower leagues such as allowing clubs to operate all of the League 2 weather sites,” wrote Crouch, but with no figures on how they are doing the rental of 3G seats to the community will impact the sites of the multi-million pound operations of the League 2 clubs.
Teams promoted from the National League with man-made surfaces like Harrogate and Sutton will, of course, want to continue with them, but by allowing man-made surfaces in the EFL you are giving the ailing chairman a cost-cutting option for turf maintenance that is all too tempting, resistance afford to.
Ground maintenance is an art that goes back centuries. By digging up lawns and using plastic, you run the risk of leaving legions of site people out of work. And this without asking the EFL players on which surfaces they actually want to play and train, as the PFA has already proven to be resistant to the use of artificial turf, Questioning the financial benefits and questioning the potential for injury.
A three-year grace period for promoted players from the National League with artificial turf seems fair, as does the rule of becoming an all-seater in the championship. After that, Crouch’s concept of “financial flows” between divisions should include a pitch fund to help the likes of Sutton and Harrogate get back on their feet without a headache.
Minor league fans will have to wonder what kind of soccer they want to watch, the ball gliding across a smooth lawn with one or the other slide (and yes, mud baths), or the strange uniformity of 3G. Like the difference between horse racing on grass at Ascot or in all-weather Wolverhampton, the same sport but somehow different.
There is a real chance of a first- and second-class rift in English football, with the Premier League played on grandiose lawns with real investments in turf technology and the lower leagues a cheap plastic product, undoubtedly regionalized at some point and possibly part-time.
The grass is always greener and football needs distribution of wealth, not excavators and crumbs of rubber.