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Sutton United's promotion form prompts groundshare and pitch upgrade plans

calendario 17.03.2021
by: Zach
  • England
  • League
  • Vanarama National
Sutton United's promotion form prompts groundshare and pitch upgrade plans

While London clubs look further than ever from a Premier League title, South London’s own Sutton United soared to the peak of non-league football’s top flight and show no sign of stopping. They face 14th place Chesterfield unbeaten in an astonishing eight league games. Already four points clear at the top of the National League and handfuls of games ahead of their rivals, it’s no surprise that Sutton’s form has their owners eyeing the EFL.

However, Sutton’s board face a serious obstacle between their club and the football league: the stringent EFL pitch regulation. One such rule is that all EFL clubs must play on grass pitches, and, at present, Sutton United turf their Gander Green Lane with artificial 3G. 

The club recently issued a statement concerning this matter, stating their plans for a pitch upgrade, and the possibility of a ground-share, as “there is unlikely to be enough time to lay and bed in a new grass surface before the start of the 2021/22 season.”

Many fans and neutrals reacted to Sutton’s plight with confusion or frustration, suggesting that the EFL was, in effect, punishing the club for its successes. European teams and competitions, including many in the Europa and Champion’s Leagues, use 3G pitches. They offer advantages in easy maintenance and versatility which may become more salient for smaller clubs as the climate crisis intensifies weather conditions around the world.

Sutton’s board, however, have been nothing but pragmatic about their future. They acknowledged both the need for a new pitch surface and the possibility of a short-term ground-share. While they didn’t specify a specific partner club to share with, speculation turned to nearby London teams in similar league positions. The likes of Wimbledon AFC and Leyton Orient play fairly nearby, as do QPR, Charlton, and Millwall further up the football pyramid. 

Sutton’s success comes as a surprise to many football fans and staff alike: the club finished 15th last season. For National League die-hards, Sutton’s potential upwards departure may seem bittersweet. However, it’s also nice to see a new face rise towards the EFL: having recently passed their 123rd birthday, Sutton United have never played a game in the EFL in their entire, long history. 

If the club does go up, astroturf or not, it will be a historic day for football, no matter which league or which team you support.

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