17 July 2024

Oldham Athletic set to make English football history for all the wrong  reasons - Mirror Online

The stories of QPR, Luton, Oldham and Preston and their plastic pitches

Welcome back folks, where we continue to delve into the captivating history of English football and the fascinating stories that have shaped the beautiful game. Today, we take you on a journey back in time to an era when football pitches underwent a revolutionary transformation – the age of plastic pitches.

In the early 1980s, amidst harsh winters and scorching summers, several English clubs sought to break free from the constraints of natural grass pitches. Queens Park Rangers (QPR), Luton Town, Oldham Athletic, and Preston North End took a daring leap by installing artificial turf in their stadiums. The decision sparked debates, controversies, and even accusations of unfair advantages, but it also set the stage for some remarkable successes.

In this feature-length article, we explore the captivating tales of QPR, Luton, Oldham, and Preston during their plastic pitch era. From the birth of artificial surfaces to the rise of these clubs on Omni-Turf and Sporturf International, we unravel the factors that led to their triumphs and the challenges they faced along the way.

Join us as we unravel the impact of plastic pitches on these historic football clubs and the legacy they left behind. Let’s dive into the fascinating history of plastic pitches in English football, where controversy and triumph went hand in hand, and where the debate over artificial surfaces still lingers in the modern game.

The start of plastic pitches

Oldham Athletic set to make English football history for all the wrong  reasons - Mirror Online

In the 1960s, the Houston Astro-Dome in the United States witnessed a revolutionary moment in sports history – the birth of Astro-Turf. Initially attempting to grow natural grass indoors, the stadium’s owners soon realized the challenges posed by such an endeavour. Instead, they turned to a novel alternative – a synthetic playing surface that would forever change the landscape of sports.

Astro-Turf’s debut in the Astro-Dome caught the attention of sports enthusiasts worldwide. Its lower maintenance requirements, durability, and ability to withstand varying weather conditions soon made it popular across North America. As the years passed, artificial pitches began to sprout up in different sports, from American football to baseball, and even soccer.

QPR’s decision to embrace Omni-Turf

For Queens Park Rangers (QPR), the decision to adopt artificial turf was driven by a pressing need to overcome the challenges posed by their natural grass pitch. The harsh winters and arid summers of the late 1970s and early 1980s had taken a toll on Loftus Road’s playing surface. What once was a lush green field had turned into a quagmire during milder winters, and a dry, patchy terrain during spring and summer.

The adverse effects on the pitch were beginning to impact QPR’s performance on the field. Despite coming close to league glory in 1979, the team faced relegation in 1979 and struggled to secure promotion back to Division One. By the end of the 1980/81 season, they found themselves finishing eighth, seven points away from the promotion spots.

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