What do Conference clubs have against artificial pitches?

SOME of you may have read the piece I did with Basingstoke Town manager Jason Bristow earlier this week, in which he explained his surprise that the introduction of artificial pitches was voted down so comfortably by Conference clubs.

The Town boss freely admits that he would rather play on grass, but he can see the numerous benefits of switching to modern artificial surfaces.

They are hard to deny.

Most importantly, unless a ground was under water, matches would not be lost to waterlogged or frozen pitches, a really big consideration given the weather we have been having of late.

As it stands, Town have 18 games to fit into 21 possible matchdays between now and the end of the season, with at least one, a trip to Hayes and Yeading United, looking like it will have to be played on a Thursday evening.

The weather doesn’t look to clever for the coming days either, meaning that Saturday’s home game against Chelmsford and Tuesday’s trip to Farnborough must also be in doubt, making the fixture pile-up even worse.

Other sides are in even more trouble. Havant and Waterlooville will have to play four times a week at least four times if they are to complete their season on time, with fellow FA Trophy semi-finalists Gosport Borough not much better off.

Granted, this has been an especially bad year for postponements – but Town have found themselves playing twice a week in the latter stages of the season several times in recent years.

On top of that, artificial pitches provide a playing surface without the bobbles non-league pitches are renowned for, which can make for a better spectacle, surely something all clubs would benefit from as they look to increase attendances.

To top it off, artificial pitches would not only save money by limiting the number of postponed games, they could also be used as a revenue stream. Not only could teams train on their pitches all year-round, saving money, but they could also be hired out, becoming a community facility available to other clubs, youth football teams, schools and the public.

Of course, there are arguments against introducing artificial pitches.

People remain concerned about impact injury issues, but many top teams train on artificial pitches, so they can’t be that much of a problem, while modern surfaces are far less abrasive than the plastic pitches of the 1980s.

However, the main one is that football is supposed to be played on grass. It’s pretty difficult to argue with that one, but at a time when top-level games are being played on artificial pitches, it’s difficult to see why Conference games shouldn’t be.

For me, the benefits outweigh the problems and I suspect it’s the way football will end up going anyway. Top flight clubs already use a mixture of grass and artificial substances. It’s only a matter of time until they are allowed to install completely artificial surfaces.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Winter Olympic frustration

I have enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics over the past week – I just wish that more of the events had definite, unquestionable outcomes.

A lot of the sports being demonstrated in Sochi rely, at least in part, on the opinions of judges. In most cases, there really isn’t any other way to decide winners, but I don’t find it these sports as satisfying as ones where there are clear winners, the person who crosses the line first, posts the quickest time and so on.

The one that really puzzles me is ski jumping. Why don’t they just give the gold medal to the person who goes furthest? Instead, that counts for just part of the score, with judges coming in to subjectively mark their style.

Something that has come in for a lot of criticism this week is the BBC commentary that accompanied Jenny Jones winning a bronze medal in slopestyle snowboarding.

The commentators, Ed Leigh and Tim Warwood, who seem to be pretty excitable at all times, were joined by Jones’ friend and team-mate Aimee Fuller for the final.

I’m not sure Barry Davies would approve and I don’t think many people understand the sport much better because of their efforts – but they certainly got the tension and excitement over well.

The coverage of snowboarding could do with a Graham Bell, an excellent broadcaster who makes you feel that you understand skiing, even if, like me, you have never stepped onto a piste.

However, there is also plenty to be learned from Leigh and Warwood, who certainly made the coverage entertaining, if not overly informative.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Appeals galore

The last couple of weeks have seen the Premier League’s independent disciplinary panel really earn their money.

Here’s a short precise of my opinion on each case.

Andy Carroll – Tried to make it look like he wasn’t trying to hit wimpy Chico Flores but he clearly was. Deserves his ban.

Craig Bellamy – Clearly raised his forearm and smashed it into an opponent’s head. Total idiot who deserves his ban.

Yaya Toure – Kicked out at an opposition player. Anyone got any idea how he got away with it?

Basingstoke Gazette:

John Terry and England

Chelsea’s John Terry has been comfortably the best and most consistent English defender this season, sparking talk that he should be welcomed back into the England fold.

Why can’t we just let this one lie?

Terry retired from international football after falling out with the FA. End of story. Well it should be, but I suspect this one has some legs.

Roy Hodgson, in saying that the case was closed, clearly hinted that it could be opened again should Terry decide to come out of international retirement.

It doesn’t look like the FA will be trying to build any bridges but I would be far from surprised if Terry decides that he fancies another crack at the World Cup and makes himself available again, sparking another public debate.

Have your say on these issues by using the comment box below, or Tweet me @JBoymanGazette.