Eastbourne Borough set for £370,000 3G pitch at Priory Lane

Maidstone's 3G pitch - picture: Anthony Nunn
Maidstone's 3G pitch - picture: Anthony Nunn

Eastbourne Borough fully intend to play next season’s home fixtures on a new 3G surface at Priory Lane.

Three weeks ago the Football Conference confirmed all member clubs can convert their main playing surfaces to FIFA two-star 3G pitches and Borough are determined to be at the forefront.

It is expected to cost the club between £350,000-£375,000 to install the surface at Priory Lane but they hope to generate £100,000 per year from renting out the pitch.

To help finance the initial outlay, the club will ring fence all monies received from sale of shares to fund key projects, chief among those is the creation of a 3G pitch.

Borough board chairman Paul Maynard said, “The only question for me and the board is whether the pitch will be constructed in this close season or next. There is a good chance it will be in place for next season.

“This will depend on the finances and interest we receive from other organisations in the town who would want to use the facility. But the early signs are encouraging.

“We recently went to Maidstone and spoke to their owners at length about their experience. It is clear from our research the potential revenue streams available from renting the main pitch to commercial soccer, to other football clubs and to schools and community organisations are huge. Once the capital costs are repaid the additional revenue from pitch rental alone can be six figures.”

The technology used now is a world away from the 80s where fans and players had to contend with the pitches at Luton Town, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and QPR.

Plastic pitches were banned in England 19 years ago due extreme bounce of the ball, serious injury fears and painful friction burns.

Maidstone are currently top the Ryman League Premier and fully expect to be in the Conference South on their 3G surface next season.

Sutton United, Maidenhead and Eastbourne Borough are keen to follow suit.

Further up the football pyramid Football League clubs decided against reintroducing artificial pitches.

A vote by the teams in November resulted in a tie, with a second vote last week deciding not to pursue a move away from grass pitches any further.

The 3G debate divides opinion but Maynard insists the decision to install the surface at Priory Lane was not purely based on finances.

He added, “Football constantly moves forward and we have to adapt to new technologies and improvements.

“Some Premiership clubs use 80 per cent synthetic and 20 per cent turf. Clubs in Russia, Scotland and Wales all use 3G and they all do so successfully.

“Obviously there is so much tradition and history in football but things like goal line technology, new footballs, new pitches are all there to be used and to improve the game.

“If football didn’t progress and evolve we would still be playing with heavy, laced balls wrapped in sheep bladder.”

Maynard added, “I am convinced conversion to an all-weather pitch would help our mid season form. Most seasons we start strongly and end brightly but suffer during the winter months playing on a heavy pitch.

“If you look at clubs who already play on 3G particularly in Scotland and Wales and in the lower leagues of England, the majority are towards the top of their respective divisions. Our style of play and the type of players we recruit lends itself to playing on a quality surface.

“Everything we do is geared towards ensuring Eastbourne has a sustainable football club which will propel us back into the Conference Premier and ultimately the Football League.”