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Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash says 3G in Football League is inevitable

Maidstone co-owner Oliver Ash is leading fresh calls for the Football League to accept 3G pitches.

Mr Ash says the issue has gone quiet and wants to put it back on the agenda.

Under current rules, the three National League clubs using 3G - Maidstone, Sutton and Bromley - must rip up their pitches and lay grass in the event of winning promotion.

Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash Picture: Martin Apps
Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash Picture: Martin Apps

Should they refuse, they would be demoted to National South - effectively a double relegation.

Mr Ash doesn’t believe it will come to that and has called on the FA, the National League and the Football League to hold a conference on 3G pitches.

He feels it’s inevitable 3G will be seen in the EFL and with Sutton riding high at the top of the National League, it’s time for the authorities to sit down.

Maidstone, Sutton and Bromley released a joint-statement calling for the conference.

Mr Ash said: “There’s now every chance a club from the National League is going to be knocking on the door of the Football League in the next season or so, so it really is back on the agenda and it would be a great show of leadership and intelligence by the FA and the EFL to grasp this issue now and deal with it up front rather than for a crisis or problem to arrive at the end of the season.

“There’s a number of reasons why it’s gone quiet. One of them is Greg Dyke, who was a great champion of 3G, left the FA at the beginning of last year.

“Another is the Football League, under pressure from the PFA and the League Managers’ Association, has also come out with reasons why 3G shouldn’t be allowed in the EFL, and another one is that the National League doesn’t press the issue of 3G because it’s concerned it might upset their interest in achieving an extra promotion place.

The Gallagher Stadium, with its 3G pitch. Picture: Martin Apps
The Gallagher Stadium, with its 3G pitch. Picture: Martin Apps

“The arguments remain why 3G is such a beneficial surface for clubs, whether they’re smaller grassroots clubs or professional clubs.

“It’s a tremendous business model, it can help clubs in loads of different ways and it can bring supporters and communities back into football clubs.

“The arguments are still there and we as clubs, as 3G4US, need to be pushing them until our cause is won.”

Mr Ash fought to get 3G accepted in the National League and won’t give up on his latest battle.

The next step is to secure the conference.

He said: “We’ll find out in the next few days, few weeks, but we’ll keep the pressure up, we know the arguments are on our side.

“That was the case three or four years ago when we persuaded the Football Conference, as it was then, to accept 3G in its competition.

“Virtually every other footballing nation in Europe allows 3G at first or second professional division level.

“Why is England always there on its own, doing things differently and, in this case, not doing things any better?

“I think it’s inevitable that it will happen sooner or later.

“The reason for campaigning in this way now is to get it done in a reflective and intelligent way now, rather than leave it till some crisis occurs when a 3G club finds it’s promotable and gets into some legal dispute with the FA and the Football League about what happens next.”

Maidstone co-owners Terry Casey and Oliver Ash and chief executive Bill Williams Picture: Martin Apps
Maidstone co-owners Terry Casey and Oliver Ash and chief executive Bill Williams Picture: Martin Apps

The threat of double relegation exists but Mr Ash, who is on the National League committee, suspects it wouldn’t come to that.

He’s chairman of the rules committee and will continue to push for the law to be scrapped.

He said: “We’ve got this rule in the National League that was brought in before I joined. It’s a subject of discussion virtually every meeting we have.

“By interesting coincidence, I’m now chairman of the rules committee - a bit like the poacher being in charge of the animal enclosure - but it is a rule that’s probably unenforceable.

“To penalise a club that’s won promotion fair and square on a Champions League-quality pitch, threatening to relegate them two divisions, it’s the sort of rule you have to go along with at the moment.

“But if we were in the happy position of being promotable at the end of the season, we’ll certainly scratch our heads very seriously before ripping up a pitch perhaps only for one season. That’s total madness.”

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