Who played on the first artificial football pitch in England?
Artificial grass was invented so sports teams could play indoors and without the need to continually maintain grass surfaces. AstroTurf was first unveiled in the famous Houston Astrodome in 1966 with the Houston Astros baseball team playing on the surface.
The invention of AstroTurf came in a part of the United States that is hot and dry in the summertime. The climate made keeping grass perfect for baseball and impossibility. Over the years, artificial grass made its way across the US and Canada and later, to England.
Today, it isn’t uncommon for youth football matches to be played on 3G pitches. Even games in Scotland and France at the top-tier pro level are occasionally played on AstroTurf.
But which team in England were the first to play on the surface?
According to a Bleacher Report article, the first English football teams to play on artificial turf were Queens Park Rangers, Luton Town, Oldham Athletic, and Preston North End.
“And eventually, artificial pitches made their way across the Atlantic Ocean to England in the early 1980s, with QPR’s Loftus Road, Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road, Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park, and Preston’s Deepdale all installing the plastic carpet.”
But what became of “plastic pitches” after these teams used AstroTurf in the early 1980s? After a few years of complaints due to nasty rug burns, crazy bounces, and poor footing, the England Football Association banned artificial turf in 1988.
Although artificial turf pitches were banned in England by the FA, they persisted in the US due to the availability of big stadiums using the surfaces.
In recent years there has been a rebirth of artificial turf due to the surfaces being all-weather. Youth football matches that would have been cancelled in years past can now go ahead and be played. In addition, 3G pitches have been built across parts of Africa where the grass is difficult to grow due to the climate.
Advances in turf technology mean 3G pitches are more forgiving than those pitches initially used in the early 1980s by QPR and other English clubs.