When reading through the interview with the chairman of Crusaders F.C. that I posted via Hammy End yesterday, the one thing that stood out was the chairman's reference to the club's 4G pitch.
"I think that our 4G pitch will give us an advantage and I think we will give Fulham a good game here.
Well, that's all well and good, but what the heck is a 4G pitch anyway?
The short explanation is that a 4G pitch is a relatively affordable, artificial grass surface that does an admirable job of remaining soft, avoiding pitch freeze and providing a surface capable of year-round usage. More specifically, each artificial grass fiber on a 4G pitch has a spine that allows the fiber to return to an upright position after being stepped upon, allowing the pitch to positively cushion subsequent impacts and maintain the feel of natural grass.
Crusaders installed their 4G pitch in 2009 and it has allowed the club to avoid canceling games on intemperate days when the majority of Northern Ireland could not claim the same luxury. As an article during a particularly icy period in January, 2010, detailed:
Crusaders' new 4G playing surface is looking more valuable with each postponement in the local game - the latest casualties being tonight's Paddy Power County Antrim Shield final between the Crues and Linfield at the Oval as well as Glentoran's league trip to Portadown.
The big freeze is giving clubs a financial battering and the league leaders couldn't have timed the placement of their new pitch more perfectly.
While the summer football argument lacks sufficient support to become a reality, there is no doubt that clubs are starved of cash and the Crues can generate vital funds by renting out their new surface.
While rivals are counting the cost of the cold snap, it's business as usual on the Shore Road
And all for the alleged cost of approximately €280,000. A significant sum, no doubt. But, as Crusaders can attest to, the benefits have far outweighed the negatives, from increased bookings to a consistently usable practice field.
While a 4G pitch may be the way of the future for clubs who can only dream of affording under-soil heating, it's definitely not in the near future for many English clubs, as the English FA has barred the usage of artificial surfaces in certain cup competitions. Install a 4G pitch and kiss participation in the FA Cup good bye.
FIFA, however, harbored no such reservations, and has given 4G pitch technology a 2* rating, the highest standard for artificial surfaces in soccer.
The FIFA RECOMMENDED 2 STAR standard will be the relevant quality standard for the use of football turf in UEFA's top competitions as the European Championship, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Cup.
If it's good enough for the Champions League, one would think it should be good enough for the Conference National or the FA Youth Cup.
It's hard to believe that the 4G pitch will serve as any sort of territorial advantage against Fulham, despite the chairman's claims. Still, it's not hard to see how much of an advantage a 4G pitch can be to a club like Crusaders.