sport

FA to allow artificial pitches

The FA are expected to announce a rule change that would enable non-league clubs to play FA Cup ties on artificial pitches as early as January 2015.

They won the battle to bring back artificial surfaces to the competition proper - from the first round onwards - after the Challenge Cup committee voted in favour of removing a 20-year ban on the surface in the FA Cup on March 11.

And if the ruling is ratified by the Professional Game Board, four of which were part of the main FA board who voted for the original change, the Football Foundation is expected to invest half of their facility budget over the three year funding deal into developing new 3G surfaces.

Under the current ruling 3G pitches can only be used in the qualifying stages of the FA Cup, and despite the fact that each pitch would cost approximately 550,000 to build, it is a change which FA general secretary Alex Horne welcomes.

"There was a very positive discussion at our recent board meeting about the use of 3G pitches in the FA Cup from the first round proper for next season," said Horne earlier this month.

"I welcome the FA Challenge Cup committee's decision this week to endorse that view. The proposal will now go to the Professional Game Board meeting on March 20 for ratification."

Earlier this week Sky Sports News' grassroot survey was released, which concluded that more than 65% of the 2,500 respondents said they did not think local councils did enough to support facilities and the costs of low-level football, while 83.7% said the FA do not do enough to preserve the grassroots game.

However by linking new 3G pitches with local professional football clubs this would enable their outreach work to take place more efficiently and allow home-grown young talent to be identified.

Other advantages include the benefit of floodlights in winter months and extended playing time as an artificial pitch can be played on for around 80-90 hours a week compared to the five hours of play you would get on a grass pitch.