Are 3G pitches helping sides get promoted from the National League? Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor gives his thoughts ahead of Sutton United trip
For the second consecutive season, a club using an artificial pitch could be promoted from the National League.
League leaders Sutton United are potentially just a win away from securing a first ever National League title and a place in the Football League.
In doing so, they would then be required to tear up their artificial pitch at Gander Green Lane and replace it with a traditional grass pitch – as 2019-20 play-off winners Harrogate Town did last summer.
Hartlepool United make the journey to Sutton this Sunday (12:45pm kick-off) looking to spoil their potential promotion party, but their record on 3G surfaces leaves a lot to be desired.
Since dropping down to the National League in 2017, Pools have won just one out of 11 matches played on an artificial pitch. That win came back in March 2018 against a Maidstone United side who were relegated at the end of that season.
Previous trips to Gander Green Lane haven’t actually been too bad for Hartlepool in truth as they’ve all ended in score draws.
This season, Sutton boast one of the best home records in the National League. As Harrogate Town did last campaign.
Is it down to the pitch they play on or are they very good sides who just so happen to play on a 3G pitch?
“I suppose you could argue both sides,” Hartlepool manager Dave Challinor told The Mail.
“You’ve got to look that as much as your home record can be good, you’ve still got to play 23 games away from home in normal circumstances and you’re not going to get promoted by being good at home and not very good away.
"Both Harrogate and now Sutton have been as effective or similarly effective away from home as they have at home. Of course, it is a different surface and there are anomalies with 3G pitches because they are different.
"But you could say the same with grass pitches because every pitch is different and some are in great condition and some aren’t.
"With 3G, you know what you’re going to get over the course of the season and there’s always going to be arguments for and against.”
Artificial pitches have caused some controversy over the years with a number of people opposing their use in professional football.
But unlike some, Challinor is more accepting of their use in the modern game.
"For me, I think it’s another thing in this league that’s a challenge and there’s arguments for the pitches to be used in the Football League, as there has been previously,” he added.
"At the minute, it doesn’t look like it’s changing so people know the situation. Harrogate did it and changed to grass and have had a comfortable season in League Two and stayed up comfortably.
"If Sutton go up there’s nothing to suggest that it couldn’t be the same for them.
"The only downside to it would be how it impacts your club’s business model within the football club because a lot of teams who do have 3G pitches rely on the income from that to fund what is happening in regard to their first team plans.”