Whytleafe chairman hails the advent of a 3G pitch at Church Road

Susceptible: Whyteleafe's Church Road pitch could be ripped up on the final day of this season

Susceptible: Whyteleafe's Church Road pitch could be ripped up on the final day of this season

First published in Football
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Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Editor

Whyteleafe chairman Mark Coote wants the football world to look at the bigger picture when it comes to 3G pitches.

The Church Road-based club, third in the Southern Counties East League, have had the go ahead from Tandridge Council to install their 3G pitch.

Coote is hopeful the new surface will be ready for the new season – he is also hopeful that will come after promotion to Ryman Division One South.

He said: “Predominantly the pitch is for Whyteleafe FC, which we all love, so we can play first team football and progress as high as we can.

“But the bigger picture is that we are building it for the community. We want a facility that everyone can play on.

“We have kids aged four playing in the 3G five-a-side pitches on a Saturday morning and we want to be able to open that right up to the 16-year-olds playing on a safe surface.”

He added: “It will probably save us £20,000 a year in lost revenue from games that are called off.

 

"And there is the knock-on effect of fans who have travelled long distances to get here or the players who have given up work at 4pm to get to the game, only to find it is called off.

“People say ‘You’ve got to play that game anyway, you’ll get the money’ but when it is rearranged for a cold Tuesday night and Chelsea and Manchester United are on the TV, no-one comes to watch. You never recoup the revenue you would have got from a Saturday.

“From a commercial point of view it is a no-brainer.”

Following a bid by Maidstone United, who top the Ryman Premier League on their 3G pitch and could be playing Conference football next season, the Conference clubs held and EGM last month and voted against allowing 3G pitches by a majority of 21 votes to 11.

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It would leave the Kent side needing to find another venue to play their home games should they win promotion.

Coote said: “I am gob-smacked that the Conference voted against it. There was a comment from a chairman saying that some clubs don’t have £300,000 to pay for a 3G.

“These guys are very short-sighted. They are paying £50,000 upwards a year to keep their pitch up to standard for that level.

“If you take the 3G model to any bank, give them a blueprint of the revenue stream you’re going to get – they will fund it.

“If they fund it over five to 10 years, that £300,000 is £30,000 a year, and you’ve been paying out £50,000 to keep the pitch at a fairly decent standard.”

He added: “It is bigger than a members’ club. It is bigger than the Conference. It is even bigger than the FA.

“This should be decided by FIFA, because we are talking about a sport that is played all around the world on 3G pitches.

“England played in the World Cup in Russia on a 3G pitch, the Champions League is played on a 3G and yet Dover won’t play Maidstone United on a 3G.”

Coote is not swayed by some of the arguments surrounding financial constraints, nor a phenomenon of football that has been in evidence since the game began.

“If a club cannot afford it, I understand that, but I believe a lot of this is driven by jealousy,” he said.

“They are scared that some clubs – in particular Maidstone – are coming in with financial backing and fantastic facilities.

“They must feel threatened, because if they put their business heads on, it is a no-brainer.”

He added: “The other comment I hear is that a 3G pitch is a home advantage. I’m 57, I started playing football when I was probably six years old, and even then there was always talk of a home advantage.

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“Whether it is the crowd or the pitch – if you have a bobbly pitch, it’s a home advantage because you’re used to playing on it. There will always be a home advantage.”

Whyteleafe are pushing hard for a return to Ryman Division One South, lying third in the table and unbeaten in eight games.

The chairman is hopeful a new pitch would be in place for the new season.

He said: “We have tenders ready to go, we were literally waiting on the approval.

“If we can get a contract in place, we hope to rip up the pitch on the last day of the season.

“It would be good to be ready for pre-season because we’d like to get the likes of Palace and West Ham back for friendly games.”

He added: “It would be the icing on the cake to have the pitch for our return to the Ryman League.”

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