Could artificial pitches be set for a return to Football League?

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Several clubs are considering installing artificial pitches

Artificial pitches could make a shock comeback if some Football League clubs get their way.

They were banned in 1988 because of complaints they caused injuries and that the quality of football played on them was poor.

Now Wycombe and Accrington are among two clubs keen to reintroduce them in a bid to cut costs and increase revenue.

"Within 10 years, we will see quite a number of pitches," insisted Wycombe vice-chairman Brian Kane.

Accrington chief executive Rob Heys added: "There's been a change of opinion recently. There is an appetite for them."

Luton Town, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and Queen's Park Rangers all possessed artificial pitches until they were outlawed by the Football Association in the late 1980s, although Preston continued to use theirs until the end of the 1993-94 season.

Since then, technology has advanced significantly and a number of top-flight clubs in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Russia now play on artificial pitches.

Several lower-division sides in Scotland use them as well, while the FA permits their use in such competitions as the FA Trophy, FA Vase and Women's Premier League.

These hi-tech pitches are approved by world governing body Fifa, while Uefa, which runs football in Europe, allows Champions League ties to be played on artificial surfaces.

England were beaten 2-1 by Russia in a Euro 2008 qualifying game at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, while Tottenham Hotspur met Swiss side Young Boys in a Champions League play-off game in 2010.

Wycombe chief Kane accepts that the reintroduction of artificial pitches might not be universally welcomed.

"When I first started talking to people about this, they thought about the old pitches," said Kane, who first considered the possibility of a synthetic surface at Adams Park three years ago.

"At one point, I thought a move towards a return to artificial surfaces would never happen but I sense that has changed now."

The interest comes from clubs at the lower end of the Football League, where the potential revenue boost combined with benefits to community schemes would have a significant impact.

"Accrington is a very traditional club, we sell real football," said Heys. "But more and more - and I think a lot of people in the Football League feel like this - the commercial benefits are starting to shout up."

Heys estimates that the cost of installing an artificial pitch would be around £500,000, which would be recouped through increased revenue streams.

If an artificial surface can help a League Two club thrive, or even simply survive - and in the process become an integral part of its community - is that such a bad thing?

"There is an income to be gained from hiring the pitch out and money to be saved in maintenance costs and the fact that you can train on it," he explained.

See the rest of the article on the BBC Sports News

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