Maidstone United consider legal proceedings over turf war with Conference

Wednesday 05th February 2014
MAIDSTONE UNITED’S directors have been overwhelmed by the groundswell of support for artificial pitches since the Football Conference voted against the use of artificial pitches last week.

Emails, texts and tweets have rolled in from around the country backing 3G and the campaign for its use higher up the football pyramid.

The football topic that’s had the nation talking has also made headlines in national newspapers and online.

Writing in The Times on Tuesday, chief sports correspondent Matt Dickinson said: “It is the same every winter, with games cancelled or staged in the mud and the ice and the gloop. There is not enough 3G turf to go round but this is not just about the weather. A modern artificial surface can be beneficial for skill development.”

There have also been articles in the Daily Express, Independent and Metro – all supportive of the campaign to allow 3G in higher leagues and the local media have also thrown their weight behind the effort to get 3G in the Football Conference and beyond.

Maidstone United lost top spot to Dulwich Hamlet in the Ryman Premier League last night because they were involved in a Ryman League Cup Quarter-Final tie against Burgess Hill Town, which they won 1-0, with a number of Academy players – who play and train on the same 3G pitch as the first team use – in the squad.

“The support Maidstone United has had over the last week has been incredible and shows considerable popular support for allowing 3G in the Skrill Conference,” said a statement, which was published on

“More and more people now recognise the many benefits 3G can bring, including providing perfect playing surfaces like the best grass pitches, safe playing conditions, getting local communities involved in a club, raising sustainable revenues and enabling matches to be played in virtually any weather while other stadia are waterlogged or frozen for weeks at a time.

“Maidstone United met last week with the Conference Board and presented a full and factual report on the 3G business model, based on 18 months’ experience running the club at the Gallagher Stadium.

“There was a question and answer session and the club considers it answered all the questions raised with facts and figures supporting the case for 3G to be allowed in the Conference leagues.

“It should be remembered that Maidstone United has previously requested the Conference to allow the club to play on its 3G pitch should it be in a promotion position at the end of the season.

“This equated to a simple request for 3G to be allowed initially in Conference South and North.

“Maidstone United was not behind the EGM motion to change the rules to allow 3G throughout the Conference. This was tabled by Sutton United and seconded by Dorchester Town.

“Regarding the vote on this motion at the EGM this was not at all the defeat for 3G that the numbers 21-11 might at first indicate. On the contrary given the fact that Conference South and North clubs had only eight votes between them (why Step 2 clubs should have so few votes when Steps 1, 3 and 4 clubs all have one vote each in such matters is a good question…) it can be seen that nearly 50% of all Conference clubs favour allowing 3G in the Conference.

“Within Conference North and South 50% of clubs wish to allow 3G. Thus overall some 30 Conference clubs would like to see 3G allowed.  This is, all things considered, very substantial support for 3G.

“Lastly it mustn’t be forgotten that the Conference Board did not exactly go out of their way to ensure that the facts and figures on 3G were made available officially, objectively and in good time to their member clubs before the vote.

Despite what we felt in our meeting last week was an open and constructive debate with a willingness to look at sensible compromise solutions, such as that requested by Maidstone United in its formal correspondence, the Football Conference has now written to the club to say that as the issue has been voted on it is therefore settled.

“This seems to state that no compromise can be considered. This is contrary to good sense, popular opinion and also the wishes of a large number of Conference clubs. It is also against the interests of your club, Maidstone United.

“We have therefore written again to the Conference to request further consideration of our own request to be allowed to play on our 3G pitch if promoted.

“We are going all out to try and persuade Conference Board that it is in the common interest to find a sensible and amicable agreement in order to avoid a costly and divisive dispute.

“If the Conference does not reply favourably then we intend to protect the club’s interests by pursuing legal proceedings. We regret this situation very much because we have shown great willingness to resolve the matter amicably and also because it may incur a substantial cost to Conference clubs. However the ball is now in the Conference court.”

Football club chairman and directors can get the facts and figures about 3G football turf at a workshop on Wednesday 26 February at The Gallagher Stadium. To register, visit

Meanwhile, artificial pitches have received the thumbs up from managers who ply their trade in the lower reaches of non-league football here in Kent.

Seven Acre & Sidcup played Lewisham Borough in the NRG Gyms Under 21 League on the artificial pitch at Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead last Friday night after the entire midweek was washed-out due to the weather.

Seven Acre & Sidcup leapfrogged over Herne Bay to the summit with a 3-0 victory over struggling Lewisham Borough, thanks to two goals from Jemelle Hudson and one from Joe Roche.

All three goals were shots from outside of the box on a blustery and wet Friday night.

Both managers were asked their thoughts on the artificial surface at Thamesmead.

Seven Acre & Sidcup manager, Louie Walker, 45, who spent the previous three years at Lewisham Borough said: “Beautiful. I love it! It just plays well. Everything’s flat, the ball moves very well and it’s just getting control of the ball on that surface and you do get the ball down and play well.  I do like it out there. I think it’s very good.”

Lewisham Borough player-manager Marc Benitz,30, added: “Not ideal, but given the weather conditions, actually ideal for tonight.

“It’s a nice surface to play on today. It does hold water actually quite a bit. It’s not seen on the surface but it’s very wet out there, quite slippery out there but it’s a nice surface to play on.

“Ideally we want to play as many matches on grass as we can as it does make the ball zip off the surface quite quickly on this type of pitch, but happy with the pitch today because by all accounts if it had been on grass the match wouldn’t have gone ahead.”

Meanwhile, Chatham Town and Erith & Belvedere will not be in action tonight because their away games over in Essex against Grays Athletic and Romford (who play their home games at Aveley and Thurrock respectively) have been postponed due to waterlogged pitches.

Ashford United’s game against Canterbury City in the South East Counties East Football League could go ahead.

A statement from Ashford at 14:00 said: “At the moment it is on but we may have to have a pitch inspection later through at the moment it is looking good.”

Ashford United will welcome Hanwell Town to Homelands Stadium on Saturday in the FA Vase Fourth Round, after Hanwell failed to stage the game after four postponements due to waterlogging.

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