Experts call for Wembley pitch enquiry

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The Independent Online

Football pitch experts have called for an independent inquiry into the controversial playing surface at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp branded the pitch a "disgrace" on Sunday after players repeatedly slipped over during his team's 2-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat by Portsmouth.

The condition of the turf ultimately contributed to the result, with Spurs defender Michael Dawson losing his footing as he attempted to prevent Frederic Piquionne from scoring Portsmouth's opening goal.

Aston Villa and Chelsea also experienced difficulties in the other semi-final a day earlier on the problematic surface.

With the FA Cup final, Coca-Cola Championship play-off final and Saracens' rugby union match against Harlequins to come at the stadium before England's friendly against Mexico on May 24, the issue has become a pressing concern - and today the body representing groundsmanship in the UK called for leading lights in the field to get together to find a solution.

Geoff Webb, chief executive of the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG), said: "The IOG believes UK grounds management leads the world and, therefore, the expertise to overcome and solve the Wembley problem does exist.

"We would suggest that an independent inquiry would be in the best interests of everyone to understand the nature and cause of the ongoing issues concerning Wembley's playing surface, and the IOG would be a willing partner in facilitating a possible solution.

"We would welcome the opportunity to lend our expertise to solve the problem."

The Wembley pitch has been relaid 10 times since the rebuilt stadium was opened in 2007, something that is thought to have contributed heavily to the deterioration of the surface.

"Many Premier League stadia serve as excellent examples of football surfaces," said Webb.

"Their playing surfaces are clearly sacrosanct and non-football events are limited in scope and nature.

"Surfaces are not replaced regularly; they are managed and maintained year-round to a very high level."

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