Wembley admits dodgy pitch is providing 'unique problem'

Stadium bosses pledge to improve surface before Chelsea-Portsmouth final
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Wembley chiefs yesterday admitted that there was justification for the criticism of the standard of pitch for the FA Cup semi-finals and are reviewing options to improve the surface.

There was widespread criticism following the semi-finals and Wembley say it is "probable" the pitch will be replaced before the final.

A Wembley Stadium spokesperson said in a statement: "We accept and understand the frustrations around the standard of the pitch at Wembley for last weekend's FA Cup semi-finals.

"The problems faced on Saturday were due to the way the surface was prepared and the measures used overnight were unable to resolve the situation sufficiently for the match on Sunday."

Wembley say football is the top priority but they need to replace the pitch several times a year to hold other events. A decision on whether to replace the pitch again – this one has only been down for four weeks – will be made after the weekend.

The spokesperson added: "There is a unique challenge with the surface at Wembley and we are working with expert pitch consultants to get it right. Wembley Stadium is a multi-purpose venue and we have to hold other events as part of the business plan, which means regular pitch replacements each year. Football is the No 1 priority and we understand we have to find a way to deliver and sustain a consistent quality pitch and replicate the successful formula that we developed in the second half of last year. We are currently reviewing all options to provide the best surface for the busy period going forward, including a probable pitch replacement. We will make this decision after the weekend."

Arsene Wenger added to the debate yesterday saying that the state of the Wembley pitch is "not acceptable" for a country bidding for the 2018 World Cup.

The Arsenal manager is a big supporter of England's bid but has been dismayed to see the criticism which saw the Wembley pitch labelled a "disgrace" by the Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp following his side's FA Cup semi-final defeat against Portsmouth on Sunday.

"I saw yesterday that they have relayed it 10 times," Wenger said yesterday. "It looks like relaying the pitch is not the problem. They have to go deeper into the problem.

"I support personally the campaign for England for the World Cup in 2018. I try to be active on it so I can't imagine that England goes for the bid for the World Cup with a bad pitch. They have to sort out the problem. They have to sort it out.

"I don't know if it would harm England's campaign, I just want to feel comfortable that England have the most renowned football stadium in the world. To have a bad pitch is not acceptable. I'm confident that the confederation will sort it out but it cannot remain that everybody complains about the pitch after the game. It's not good enough. It is a football country. It is the best league in the world and so what we want to show to the rest of the world is that we have the best pitches in the world."

Gordon Taylor, head of the players' union, added: "The pitch is a big concern. It is becoming an embarrassment for the FA and it needs to be addressed and addressed properly.

"There is no point worrying about the finances of Wembley if people are going to be wary of playing there because the pitch is not up to it and you don't get a fair contest."