The Curse of Synthetic Turf

By Bryn Lee

For so long I have advocated the benefits a synthetic turf pitch can bring, but last Saturday, for the first time, I saw a negative aspect of being able to play in nearly all weather conditions. I was at Havant & Waterlooville FC to see their FA Cup match against Billericay and for my Father to make a presentation to a long standing club stalwart, Trevor Brock.

Billericay vs Havant and Waterlooville
Billericay Town's Darren Foxley (blue shirt) netted both of Town's goal during their 3-2 Emirates FA Cup defeat at Havant & Waterlooville (Nicky Hayes BTFC Media)

All morning it had rained, and as we approached the ground, the rain increased in intensity and my Father, Brian Lee, former Chairman of the National League, the highest league outside the EFL, commented that the game would probably be called off. “No chance”, I told him, “the pitch is synthetic and designed for this level of rain.”

True enough, when we arrived the pitch looked immaculate and ready for the cup match.

As kick off approached, I was asked to hold the umbrella over my Father, as he made the presentation, on the pitch, in front of the few brave fans who defied the driving rain. Under foot, the pitch felt firm and there was no surface water.

Brian Lee, former Chairman of the National League and Havant and Waterlooville director and Club Secretary, Trevor Brock

The match started and both teams passed the ball, with confidence, at a level I wasn’t expecting. In fact, several close by supporters said the game would not have been played on the old Havant pitch, which would have been pot marked with puddles, as many natural turf pitches are in such conditions.

It was 0-0 at half time, but probably a better half time team-talk from the Havant manager, saw the home side storm into a 3-0 lead, through fast passes, close control and excellent finishing, you would normally expect to see in the Premier League. Billericay responded with a goal direct from a free kick, before a correctly overturned penalty appeal, was converted  and brought the visitors back into the match at 3-2, sparking an exciting last 10 minutes.

It was a great game, played throughout in driving rain, with high skill levels and plenty of excitement for the hardy spectators. And the curse? As one fan said, “If it wasn’t for the plastic pitch, we’d be home, nice and dry rather than soaked to the skin here.

I think the entertainment made it worthwhile for the home supporters, and the several who cheered Billericay, at least saw a great fight back from their team.

As for the pitch, it played really well. A little faster because it was wet, but you can see why clubs at this level choose synthetic turf.