New twist in Wembley pitch battle

The controversial Wembley pitch is to be dug up immediately, it was announced this afternoon.

Arsene Wenger branded the surface ’a disaster’ after Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final with Chelsea on Saturday, while Alex Ferguson called it ’dead’ in the aftermath of Manchester United’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Everton 24 hours later.

In the wake of such criticism, stadium officials decided to launch a thorough review of the pitch and have concluded the rye grass surface should be replaced with immediate effect.

The new pitch will be a different composition to the current one, which it is hoped will be better suited to the stadium design.

Although the FA had confirmed there would be a new ’sand-soil’ pitch installed, it was not anticipated the work would be done until after next month’s FA Cup Final. Instead, the new one will be down before the FA Trophy clash between Stevenage and York on May 9.

There have been problems with the new stadium’s pitch since it first opened just over two years ago.

Due to the number of non-footballing events, including pop concerts and speedway races, which are required at Wembley to make the rebuilding project viable, it was felt the rye-grass option was more likely to withstand the extra punishment.

However, it has proved not to be the case, with Wenger claiming the present surface is worse than at any of the 20 Premier League grounds.

“When you build a new stadium, the first priority is that the pitch is good,” said Wenger on Tuesday. “If that’s not right the whole stadium is bad.

“Before everybody wanted to play at Wembley because the pitch was so special. Now, nobody wants to play at Wembley.”

Although the FA acknowledge they will still need to change the pitch at regular intervals, the organisation is optimistic the work should at least allow Wembley to restore its previous reputation for a surface of the highest standard.

A statement read: “Wembley Stadium is a multi-purpose venue and needs to be able to offer both a quality playing surface and a quality calendar of events.

“The pitch has always been and will continue to be at the heart of the stadium and of the business.”


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