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Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

Football and new technology

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Football has always been resistant to new technology.  The first, admittedly crude, experiments with flood lighting were carried out in the 19th century.  When more reliable methods became available, it was first seen as something of a novelty before being widely adopted with ever improving technology (although still vulnerable to a supply interruption at non-league level).

Football has been slow to adopt other new technologies.  Goalline technology to see whether a ball had crossed a line was used in tennis before it was deployed at the top level in football (mistakes are still being made in the lower leagues).  The wider use of video technology in relation to penalty and offside decisions has encountered considerable resistance.  It is always feared that the nature of the game would be fundamentally changed.

The latest battleground is 3G pitches.  In November 2014, EFL clubs voted on the issue of allowing plastic pitches and were tied 34 in favour, 34 against with four abstentions.  Clubs in the National League can use 3G pitches and three of them do (Bromley, Maidstone United and Sutton United).

It has to be said that the National League reluctantly allowed these pitches at Conference level because they did not want a situation in which a tier two club was denied promotion because of its pitch. If one of the three clubs was promoted to the EFL, they would have to rip up their synthetic pitch and replace it with a grass one.

The standard of plastic pitches has improved, but there is always a concern that if just some clubs had them, they would gain an unfair advantage in home games because of their familiarity with the different surface.  I would expect the ball to behave differently on such a pitch. There are claims (on which I am not qualified to make a judgment) that some types of injury occur more often on such pitches.

The proponents of plastic pitches claim that diehards insist that football has 'to be played on mud'. However, groundsmanship skills and the standard of pitches have improved considerably over the years. This even applies to many non-league clubs.

My hunch is that they will eventually be allowed, at least in Leagues One and Two, but not in the next year or two.