Plastic pitches enjoyed a brief spell of popularity in the 1980s, before technology had given football such innovations as undersoil heating and those men you see shovelling water off the pitch on FA Cup Round 3 day.
Plastic Pitches FashionableEdit
Occasional England coach and suspected crook Terry Venables, then QPR manager, pioneered the installation of a new artificial surface at Loftus Road in the early eighties. Over the next few years, Luton, Oldham and Preston followed suit.
The fake grass pitches caused a sensation at first; as well as being far easier to maintain than proper grass, their supporters claimed that they added excitement to the game by producing lively action with high ball bounces, and that players would ‘enjoy’ playing on the surface as the unrealistically springy conditions underfoot would take less of a toll on muscles than soggy and muddy winter turf. It was once claimed that plastic pitches could be ‘the saviour of the English game’.
Plastic Pitches UntenableEdit
Unfortunately, like many ideas expected to ‘add excitement to the game’ (e.g. experiments with wider goals), and like many things expected to be the ‘saviour of English football’ (e.g. Kevin Keegan), plastic pitches turned out to be shit. In the rush to install and extol them, various drawbacks had been overlooked:
-Harder surface resulted in regular gashes, broken bones, fractured skulls etc, including all 22 players being carried off during Preston – Burnley derby;
-Bounce of ball bore no relation to laws of physics
-Timeless football-ground smell of wet grass replaced by stench of chemicals
-Nearly all teams continued to play on normal grass, creating resentment of those who enjoyed unfair advantage
-Slight feeling of being in America, or somewhere else where football is not taken seriously
Nowadays plastic pitches are not used in British football, and only crop up when England are forced to play World Cup qualifiers in Eastern Europe and the hosts take advantage of legal loopholes to psyche them out.
On these occasions, the England manager can always be seen in a tracksuit looking sceptically at the surface, while players in full-body protective suits jog tentatively across it and think about feigning a training injury to be sent back to their clubs. A spokesman for the home nation will usually claim that ‘Belarus and Cyprus played on the pitch without any problems’.