The number of Non League clubs playing on artificial pitches is growing every season and they seem to bring many benefits. Less fixture cancellations, enhanced community presence and constant stream of income are some of those positives but the key thing I started to wonder was will it also bring the club more points? Will the advantage of training and playing on this surface very regularly give the home team a distinct advantage on an opposition team that plays on generally plays on grass?
I was looking at it, as I always do, from a Kent point of view and it was quick to see that things looked interesting the further down the pyramid I looked. So starting at Step Six we have the Southern Counties East Football League Division One.
There are two teams with 3G pitches.
K Sports 2nd Place
Fisher 3rd Place
K Sports play on the artificial grass at their impressive Cobdown venue. They had a home record of Played 18 won 16 lost 1 this season. 49 points at home, 42 away. They have gained promotion and were denied a title win with an off the field irregularatory.
Fisher FC were well placed in 3rd and will be hoping the FA help them out by giving them a wildcrad place in the Premier Division. They have played at the St Pauls Sport Ground, Salter Road for well over a year and had a home record of Played 18 won 12 lost 4 drawn 2 this season, identical to their away record.
So as we see, the two teams that played on this surface this season both done very well.
In the SCEFL Premier Division, step 5, there is only one team with a 3g surface. Sevenoaks Town installed it just before the start of the season at Greatness Park. They topped the division having 10 won 14 and losing just 2. They have now been promoted to the newly formed Bostik South-East Division.
Sevenoaks Town 1st place
It’s hard not to look at those two leagues without wondering if those three teams are benefiting from the surface being less familiar for their opposition. Can they incorporate a playing style that cannot be reproduced by away teams as they simply don’t have the same time played on this surface?
One League up we have the Bostik South Division
Six teams have a 3g surface and results are mixed. Ashford had a poor season, Horsham and Whyteleafe were around mid-table whilst Carshalton, Cray Wanderers and Walton Casuals all done really well.
Carshalton Ath 1st place
Cray Wanderers 3rd place
Walton Casuals 6th place
Whyteleafe 8th place
Horsham 15th place
Ashford United 21st place
Ashford had a poor Season but were much better at home compared to away. 8 Home wins, 2 away wins. Horsham showed no benefit from it as they had similar home and away records. Whyteleafe earned 45 points at home and 30 away.
Higher up and Walton Casuals moved into the Elmbridge Sports hub at the beginning of this season. They gained promotion by winning the play-offs. Their home form saw them lose just twice while away they were defeated 8 times.
Cray Wanderers share with Bromley FC and the 3g was new for this campaign. They finished 3rd but lost out in the play-offs. They lost just twice at home but 5 times away.
Carshalton are playing their third season on the 3g at Colston Avenue and lost just 2 of their 23 home games on the way to winning the title. They lost 4 away games.
So although results are more mixed from this division two of the teams gained promotion with Cray Wanderers coming incredibly close.
The next division up, Isthmian Premier, moves away from my location of interest but a quick look can see Harlow and Worthing performing poorly although both have a far superior home record compared to away. Harlow won 11 at home but just 2 away. Worthing lost 5 at home but 15 away. Hendon finished 3rd and only lost out on promotion in the play-off final. They had lost 3 at home but 8 away. Margate finished 7th with no significant bias in their records.
Hendon 3rd place
Margate 7th place
Worthing 16th place
Harlow 21st place
The National League South does not show any preference for 3g with just Eastbourne Borough and Oxford City using it and neither are doing anything special. I have been to an Oxford home game this season and the standard of that pitch was pretty awful.
Oxford City 16th place
Eastbourne 18th place
There is always more focus on the 3g in the National League due to if one of teams was to get promotion they would have to rip the surface up and lay grass before gaining a place in the Football League. Failure to do this would see them drop a further division.
Sutton have the surface and finished in 3rd place. The other two teams are Maidstone in 19th and Bromley in 9th.
Sutton United 3rd place
Bromley 9th place
Maidstone United 19th place
Overall after looking at the top 6 divisions of Non-League football that can affect the teams from Kent it seems that most of the sides are doing very well from their 3g pitches. As mentioned at the start of this piece these surfaces clearly bring so much to the clubs with the amount of football that can be played on them, the bad weather not causing postponements, there is a continued revenue coming into the club, the stadium can be more of a community hub etc, but does it give them an unfair advantage over other teams? Or is that what home matches are all about? Shouldn’t the away team find it tougher when visiting an opponent? But is it fair? Is it simply that the teams that are investing in this technology are also investing in the team aswell? Better players mean more points, not just because of the turf? It certainly is a tricky one and I can see all sides of the discussion.
Until told otherwise more teams will be switching to 3g and developing a style that suits this surface and gains them promotion like K Sports, Sevenoaks Town, Carshalton and Walton Casuals.
Do you have a point on this subject and would like me to just read or add it to this post?