fbpx

3G pitches to help clubs in a post-COVID world

As football clubs around the world deal with the COVID-19 health crisis, the future use of more artificial pitches could help organisations navigate around these financially distressing times.

That is at least the view of former FA technical director Dan Ashworth, stating that the FIFA-approved football turf provides opportunities for clubs to host various events and pursue the development of their own academies.

In the UK, Maidstone United were the first ever English club to build a brand-new stadium using the highest quality 3G artificial surface.

That was in 2012, and since then, other notable clubs in the non-league divisions including Sutton United, Harrogate Town and Bromley have all made the move (in the National League) and installed 3G pitches.

The English Football League have considered allowing 3G fields in League 1 and 2, however, a vote in 2014 on the matter was tied.

This means that any club playing on an artificial pitch has to remove the surface if they want to be promoted into the EFL, even though 3G fields are allowed for the Women’s World Cup, Champions League and many other professional leagues in Europe.

Similar articles:

Heidelberg United: Modernising youth development with SoccerPLAY

The Bundesliga continues to build its reputation as football’s innovation benchmark

Joint-owner of Maidstone United Oliver Ash believes Dan Ashwoth is right in saying 3G pitches should be a prominent option for EFL clubs impacted financially by COVID-19.

He told fcbusiness: “With this terrible Covid-19 crisis affecting so many people and damaging so many football clubs, which are vital to their communities, we have to think outside the box if we are to avoid financial meltdown.

“Going forward it will all be about sustainability. Clubs will have to find ways of making their businesses sustainable in the interests of their supporters and their actual survival. One obvious way of achieving this is by installing a 3G pitch.

“We have now had five years’ experience of 3G pitches in the National League. We have seen supporters and players embrace the change in playing surface; we have seen that the highest quality 3G pitches encourage good football but also allow physical players to get stuck in; we have seen no particular injury problems, a welcome absence of postponements, and local people coming in their droves to watch and play football at our clubs seven days a week. It’s been life-changing in a totally positive way.”

Ash estimates that those clubs who decide to use 3G fields can generate a further £400,000 worth of income a year. This is the case because of direct pitch-hire revenue as well as indirect earnings from supporters coming into the club. Savings are also made on maintenance and postponements.

Using his own club as an example, Ash explained Maidstone United have registered a profit every season since the pitch was installed eight years ago.

“We know and respect the fact that some people still prefer to play on natural surfaces, even down in League 2, where pitch quality is inconsistent,” he said.

“However, the benefits of 3G pitches are so massive and the problems facing football so huge, it would be irrational not to give League 2 clubs the option to install them without delay and take advantage of the opportunity to transform their clubs into sustainable businesses capable of surviving this crisis and thriving thereafter,” he concluded.

Maidstone United, Sutton United, Bromley and Harrogate Town are the leaders in advocating for change in the EFL.

With leading experts in the game looking to restructure football in some capacity, what is generally the norm may be no more.

One day in the near future, these clubs could have access to the EFL without having to give up their 3G pitches.

On a local front, are 3G pitches a suitable idea for NPL and A-League clubs? Get in touch with us via email or our social channels.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Dig Inclusion makes digital access available for everyone 

For stadiums around the world, infrastructure has been created to cater for people with disabilities, however access to club websites and apps cannot be overlooked. 

In the past, stadiums had been designed so people with disability can still access the venues. As we know with COVID outbreaks, attention has now shifted towards how we get these people into the grounds by using apps and in particular to scan a QR code for contact tracing. 

As we have seen in 2021, the QR system has become a mandatory tool, while at the same time we have seen the need to go with virtual tickets, rather than the printed out copies we had always been accustomed to. 

For clubs and stadiums, they want to ensure that fan experience is at the optimal level, so that means they have to assess the accessibility for disabled people and ways for them to have entry to venues without an enormous amount of hassle. 

This is where Dig Inclusion can help. They are a digital accessibility service who ensures that football club websites and apps are equally available for everyone. 

For clubs, they should be asking themselves whether disabled fans have the same opportunity to buy tickets online as everybody else, while the other consideration should be if news feeds, match statistics, websites and apps are as user friendly as they need to be. 

For digital accessibility, Dig Inclusion takes into account people who are colour blind, dyslexic or have cognitive impairments (including people living with dementia). Through a club’s website or app design process – from the use of font, to language, to colour contrast – are all highly important so nobody feels overwhelmed when accessing a club’s resource. 

For example, if a disabled fan wants to buy some club merchandise, then they will have the same opportunity to browse and make that purchase just like any other person would, with tailored options available to assist anyone who needs it. 

When teams partner with Dig Inclusion, they are there for every step of the way, from accessible testing, research and strategy, to accessible development and content creation, and finally a check on websites, mobile apps, PDF documents and ebooks among some of the benefits. 

All of Dig Inclusion’s services are designed to help clubs keep pace in a rapidly changing digital age: 

Accessible design review: To highlight visual aspects of a design that need to be checked for accessibility, such as colour contrast and positioning. This looks at common accessibility pitfalls and turns this into what would be the ultimate experience for all customers. 

Accessibility help desk: Advice and support from someone who understands the company and what they do, offering fast response times and specialist knowledge for any stucks in the digital accessibility process. 

Mobile accessibility: Helping to get the most out of tablet and smartphone users, with those devices more often used than desktop or laptop. This is very important for disabled or elderly fans who would like to use mobile technology. 

Web accessibility: Advising organisations about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in an easy-to-understand manner, as design agencies and web developers may find it difficult to grasp or keep pace with updates as they become available. 

Disabled user testing: It’s not only digital content meeting accessibility guidelines that is important, but also making sure that the experience of a disabled person using a product is a good one. 

PDF accessibility: Accessibility guidelines are not just designed for webpages, but anything that a customer downloads is also included. Dig Inclusion can produce PDF documents that go alongside WCAG with equal access as a typical website. 

Video accessibility: When businesses make advertising material, they can be supported with transcripts, captions, subtitles, or audio descriptions that they probably would have not used before on their own. 

Ebook accessibility: Tablets have been a valuable way for people to virtually read books and other publications. An accessible ebook gives all readers instant access to fit their needs, regardless of print disability. 

Dig Inclusion provides ways for clubs to navigate the challenges associated with building an app or website for equal opportunities. To learn more on Dig Inclusion, you can find it here. 

Swan Retail: Promoting clubs through powerful app 

Swan Retail’s software development has seen the creation of FUSE – an app that has all the best fan engagement features in the one place. 

It’s been a mixed bag for Australian audiences wanting to go to live sporting events, as lockdowns and restrictions have not always gone in our favour. 

For sport clubs, they have become more reliant on finding ways to engage with their fan bases via digital, as the typical match day inclusions do not always go to plan, with unpredictable Covid-19 changes. However, what is for certain is that clubs cannot be stopped in exploring ways to promote their team in a variety of ways. 

Swan Retail has identified the demand for digital and online resources, where they have taken their expertise into the sports & stadium area. 25 years’ worth of experience has lended itself towards furniture & homeware, fashion and specialty retail to name a few. 

Swan Retails app, FUSE, encapsulates that a club is searching for when it comes to fan engagement. It is completely branded to suit a club’s identity and includes an immerse news feed to create engaging content that you would see on a social media platform. The only difference here is that the app takes everything from a club and showcases that directly to a fan, rather than trapping it in amongst other competitors.

When a fan uses FUSE, their sole focus is on the team they support. FUSE is the application that integrates quality engagement, offering clubs the chance to interact with their fans, build their brand, reward loyalty and drive sales. 

Available on the App Store and Google Play, FUSE has a host of features to maximise marketing potential: 

  • Build and theme a business app. 
  • Clubs can customise their branding. 
  • Scale up only when clubs need to. 
  • Deploy to iOS & Android. 
  • Potential to be live within four weeks. 
  • Deliver engaging content through the app feed. 
  • Segment, target and deliver content based on purchase data. 
  • Display real-time loyalty points and loyalty account balances. 
  • Wrap and enhance a mobile website. 
  • Harness the power of push notifications. 
  • Drive footfall, sales, traffic and conversion. 

FUSE can bring fan engagement benefits that are developed around loyalty. To build and sustain a fan base, Swan Retail helps to bring promotions to life. The app provides the go-to resource for planning and delivering promotional campaigns, leading to an increased rate of revenue. 

Clubs can bring across their creativity and connect with fans in a more personalised manner, whether it be game day or to provide greater access off the pitch. Swan Retail have partnered with Warrington Wolves Rugby Club, Ipswich Town Football Club and Stoke City Football Club who have already seen the following benefits: 

  • News, events, polls and promotions form the pivotal part of FUSE, making content the app’s bread and butter. This can be implemented further by integrating an online shop, which can be a post of a goal celebration during the match with a promotion applied to the player’s kit. 
  • Push notifications as a regularity can consistently bring fans to the app once they have been informed of new content, rewards and timely promotions that all contribute to driving sales. 
  • Loyalty points can be accrued to make fans feel part of something special and to be rewarded for their support. 
  • A website within the app to collaborate a fans’ online experience by seamlessly allowing them to browse and buy from a store without leaving the app. 
  • Calls-to-action as a way of offering new products such as kit releases and the ability to use redeem promotions and use rewards points. 
  • Custom forms can be created as a crowdsourcing tool to get feedback and insights from the people that make the club tick and learn more about how to maximise profits. 

To learn more about Swan Retail, and to have a read of their case studies, you can find it here. 

© 2021 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks