Pitch may be dug up 65 times in next 13 years

The Football Association admitted yesterday that the pitch at Wembley will have to be dug up and relaid continually for the next 13 years. A meeting was held yesterday between the FA, the Sports Turf Research Institute, which oversees the maintenance of the pitch, and experts from the Institute of Groundsmanship.

The best they could come up with is ripping up the turf up to five times a year. The FA is to host 12 non-football events at Wembley every year until 2023 to help repay debts on the £757m stadium, and damage to the turf is inevitable.

An FA spokeswoman said: "We appreciate we have to improve the quality of the pitch and we are determined to do so. Under the current business plan there is provision for pitches to be changed over the course of a season, but there is no set number for this. We will continue to review, monitor and work with industry experts to deliver a football pitch to the quality everyone wants."

Yesterday's meeting was called after farcical scenes during the FA Cup semi-finals, in which players had trouble keeping their feet. In February, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson blamed the pitch for the hamstring injury that Michael Owen picked up in the Carling Cup final that ended his season.

The pitch is currently being relaid, at an estimated cost of £90,000, following Saturday's rugby match between Saracens and Harlequins. It is the 11th time the pitch has been relaid since Wembley reopened in 2007, and it is due to be finished on Thursday.

The new surface will face intense use, starting with the FA Trophy on 8 May, followed by the FA Cup Final on 15 May, four play-off finals and England's friendly with Mexico.

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