The last ever Football League game played on artificial turf

On 18th May 1994, Preston North End played against Torquay United in the Division 3 Play-Off Semi Final 2nd leg. What made it special—besides the result—was that it was Preston’s last match on their artificial turf and the last Football League match to be played on any artificial pitches.

These Football Times wrote about artificial pitches in 2015 and how they were seen as an unfair advantage and unloved by everyone (except the teams using it):

Escalating accusations of QPR having an unfair advantage were hard to ignore. Venables’ part in QPR’s rise saw Barcelona come in for his services. The club struggled in 1984/85, surviving the drop by just one point and finding that UEFA wouldn’t permit them to play home UEFA Cup ties on their artificial surface. They instead took themselves off to Highbury on European nights.

The resentment of many rival teams and supporters towards QPR’s artificial pitch was gaining momentum. One disgruntled visiting Aston Villa fan took such an exception that he marched down the terraces to the perimeter wall, and then threw a sizeable square of real turf on top of the artificial surface in protest.

Plastic pitches are more synonymous with five-a-side football on weekday evenings nowadays so it’s weird to see professional footballers as late as the 1990s playing on them. They were controversial and thankfully didn’t last into the 2000s but they were a unique part of history that gave some clubs a glimpse of success.

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