The EFL has confirmed that its stance on artificial pitches remains, meaning any club promoted into League Two must have a grass playing surface in time for 2018/19.
At a meeting for EFL clubs on Thursday, it was communicated that all clubs with aspirations to compete in the Football League next season would need to commit to having a grass playing surface in place by a certain date during the summer.
The statement was most likely made given Sutton United’s fine season and the very real possibility of them winning promotion.
Their synthetic 4G pitch has been vital to the club’s financial stability in recent years, but they would have to rip the surface up and replace it with grass should they win promotion and wish to compete in League Two next season.
The EFL also confirmed that if a club was to win promotion and fail to meet the deadline for having a grass pitch in place, then the club that finished 23rd in League Two would be given a reprieve from relegation and maintain EFL status, meaning only one club would be promoted from the National League this season.
However, all clubs who have aspirations to play in the EFL next season were required to submit an application by 31st December, and all applicants have committed to having a grass pitch in place should they achieve promotion.
This means that either Sutton are willing to change their playing surface, or they have not lodged an application meaning they would not be promoted even if they were to earn it.
A list of clubs who have applied for EFL status next season – subject to promotion – has not been made public. We’d hope Tranmere would be one!
Prospect of artificial or synthetic pitches in the Football League
While underlining the pitch requirements for the 2018/19 season, the EFL confirmed that it will continue discussions to establish whether there is an appetite among its member clubs for synthetic or artificial pitches to be used in future seasons.
The EFL’s AGM takes place in June, at which we’d expect a vote on any such matters, if required. One option understood to be on the table is the possibility of allowing artificial or synthetic pitches on a divisional basis. An example of this scenario could be that clubs in League Two are allowed non-grass pitches, while Championship and League One would not be.
Tranmere Chairman Mark Palios has previously indicated an interest in the idea of introducing artificial pitches in to the Football League due to the positive financial impact on smaller clubs.
Judging by the fact that Rovers have to leave several players out when they play the likes of Sutton or Maidstone away due to their 4G pitches, we’d assume Micky Mellon wouldn’t be so keen.