ONLY a tied vote among League One and Two club chairmen earlier this year prevented artificial pitches becoming a reality in the Football League next season – but they are coming lower down the football pyramid, with Cirencester Town hoping to secure FA funding for one ahead of the 2016/17 season.

The 3G (third generation) pitches are already allowed in the FA Cup and, from next season, in all three Conference divisions too.

The 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, in which England did so well and raised the profile of the women’s game, was played only on artificial pitches.

Their make-up has come a long way since four clubs in England – QPR, Luton, Preston and Oldham – installed a plastic playing surface in the 1980s.

Though the clubs had a psychological edge over their opponents, the experiment was deemed a failure and the pitches were soon dug up amid nightmare stories of injuries, carpet burns and an impossible bounce.

QPR were the first to get rid of theirs, in 1988. Preston were the last, ripping up the plastic at Deepdale in 1994. A year later artificial pitches were banned from English professional football.

But as Lee Rider, the FA's Regional Facilities and Investment Manager for the South West insists: “The technology has moved on at such a pace since those days. QPR’s artificial pitch was basically a carpet laid on a concrete base.

“3G pitches are not going to replace grass but they will complement the grass pitch football division.”

South West clubs like Hereford and Salisbury City have both gone to the wall in recent years and the FA are of the opinion that ‘plastic’ 3G and 4G pitches are the best way for lower league clubs to become sustainable.

Helen Grant, Minister for Sport at the time, said earlier this year: "Good facilities such as 3G pitches are crucial to encourage and sustain participation as well as help develop the next generation of talent."

Manchester United have no need to maximise their already vast revenues by renting out Old Trafford to Chorlton-cum Hardy’s U11s but artificial pitches can prove a cash cow for cash strapped outfits – as Merthyr Town FC have proved.

The Welsh club, who put down an artificial pitch in the summer of 2013, last month won the UEFA Best Grassroots Club 2015 Award, impressing no less a figure than UEFA President Michel Platini.

He said: "Football can play an important role in the promotion of positive messages and tackling the social issues, and those are both impressive features of the Best Grassroots Club winner at Merthyr Town FC.

"The club has enabled a variety of target groups to enjoy football by taking part in the sport, and this ensures there is a positive future ahead for those involved." 

In theory a floodlit Cirencester Town could rent out their pitch to all manner of other sports clubs, not just for football, virtually 24/7 – with little negative impact on the surface – and crucially there would be no danger of weeks without any cash flow through the turnstiles and bars during a major freeze-up.

Maintenance costs compared to playing and training surfaces on grass would be minimal.

One stumbling block to Cirencester Town’s bid is the criteria for the performance standard of a 3G pitch required for the Southern Premier and/or Conference football.

“A pitch good enough for use in the Conference would have an impact on how many hours it can be used by the community,” said Rider.

Effectively a lesser quality pitch could be used much more.

He added: “We don’t want to install a pitch that would compromise any sustainability.”

Further down the line, Cirencester could boast a second, smaller 9-a-side 3G pitch to cater for the 25 per cent increase in the size of Cirencester's population arising from the 2,350 new homes in Chesterton.

The consultative document on the need for 3G pitches in Cirencester concluded: "When a second small-sided (9x9) '3G' football turf pitch is provided in the future, it should be located in close proximity to the Chesterton Farm development, which makes either Cirencester College or the Royal Agricultural University suitable potential sites."