Saturday, 25 January 2014

It's a pitch Jim but not as you know it

Terry Casey
It is clear that we still have a long way to go to win the 3G argument judging by Jim Parmenter's recent article

Jim was kind enough to show Bill and I around his operation at The Crabble ground before we began the building of the Gallagher Stadium. In an effort to dispel some of Jim's pre-conceptions on 3G surfaces I would like to return his hospitality and invite him to our ground so that we can explain why 3G works for Maidstone United FC. 

Whilst I cannot deal with each point that Jim raised there are some fundamental facts that I would want to clear up when we meet. The first is that 3G surfaces do not mean that games are sterile. We have played hundreds of competitive matches on the surface and because the ball rolls and bounces in a consistent and proper way it simply means that players can play the "beautiful game" in the way it was always intended to be played. 

Our supporters keep returning and they will tell you that the games that are played satisfy all football supporters need for excitement. The term level playing field is never more relevant than when we play on the 3G surface. The next point deals with injuries to players. I can say that there are more injuries to players on pitches which are part iced over and part waterlogged. 

We can and do play on our pitch even when there is heavy frost and other matches are postponed. We would not risk the safety of the hundreds of children that use the surface, we would not risk the safety of the players who hire the pitch.

We would not dream of risking the safety of our first team players or the safety of our 60+ academy students who use the 3G surface every day and play all of their competitive matches on this same pitch. I do notice that the Dover academy use a 3G surface and I am sure that the coaches at Dover would not risk the safety of the young people who could be the future of the club. 

If our confidence about the pitch is not enough, surely the fact that teams in Europe from Bayern Munich to Barcelona have embraced this surface shows that it is the way forward. Games played on the mud baths of the Ryman and Conference leagues are not always going to be a true contest of footballing skill.

We have made a decision at Maidstone United to create a business model that enables the football club to conduct our business on the basis of its income exceeding its outgoings. This means the distortion of football club owners ploughing their own money into a football club that is hopelessly insolvent could be a thing of the past. 

Our business model can only happen with a surface that will be used for fifty hours a week. Many of the numbers quoted in the article are a long way off the true figure and I would relish the opportunity of showing Jim that the cost of the surface can be re-paid within two/three years.

I do sincerely hope that Jim will come and visit. We are not trying to persuade Dover to change their pitch or even change their approach to the way they run their business, we are just hoping to explain why it works for us and how it could work for others.