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Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 16:56 UK

FA to address Wembley pitch issue

The Wembley pitch
The state of the Wembley pitch has been a source of concern since the stadium re-opened in 2007

The Football Association has admitted improvements are needed to the Wembley pitch after criticism of the surface.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes were unhappy with the pitch for last weekend's FA Cup semi-finals.

In a statement the FA said: "The stadium's unique environment continues to prove challenging.

"Whilst recent changes to the surface have seen improvements in player traction, we accept there are still further improvements to be made."

Arsenal manager Wenger called the surface "a disaster" and "laughable" after his side's defeat by Chelsea on Saturday.

Ferguson said his worries over the pitch were the reason why he fielded a weakened Manchester United team, who were beaten by Everton in a penalty shoot-out on Sunday.

If you go to a lot of places in Europe and Africa you get pitches that are a lot worse than that

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink

Wembley took seven years to build and cost £750m but the surface appeared to cut up severely throughout both matches at the weekend, which were played in dry conditions.

The grass has been re-laid five times since the stadium re-opened in 2007 and will be re-laid again in the summer, ahead of the Community Shield.

By then, eight games will have been played on it including the three Football League play-offs, the FA Cup final and England's World Cup qualifier against Andorra.

"I don't think we lost because of the pitch," said Wenger. "But it is really embarrassing. When you see how much this stadium has cost and you still can't get a proper football pitch. Somebody must give an explanation.

Arsene Wenger
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was unhappy with the Wembley pitch on Saturday

"I am not sure the pop concerts (held at Wembley) are an answer (for the pitch's condition). This pitch was never good since the start."

After watching Saturday's match, Ferguson says he took the decision to pull Paul Scholes, Dimitar Berbatov and Patrice Evra from his starting line-up, although all three came on as substitutes.

"When I saw the pitch what I didn't want was to go into extra-time with my strongest squad," said the Scot after his side were beaten 4-2 on spot-kicks following a 0-0 draw.

"They've got all these lights around the perimeter to help the growth and the standard of the soil but it looks dead to me.

"Yesterday it looked spongy and dead and difficult to move the ball quickly around it. So we had to go with the bold decision of playing the younger ones.

Australian rugby player Matt Dunning lies next to large divots after being injured at Wembley
The Wembley surface was suspected of injuring Australian rugby players

"After all, our club is built on giving young players opportunities and they didn't disappoint.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Moyes added: "I thought it looked very spongy and a poor playing surface - not in a way that it was all bobbles and divots but it just looked as if it was very soft, spongy and quite slow at times."

But Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink was not critical of the playing conditions at Britain's premier sporting arena.

"If you go to a lot of places in Europe and Africa you get pitches that are a lot worse than that," he insisted. "I don't think you should start talking about the pitch, whether you win or lose. It was fine to play on."

Wembley is also set to host the 2011 Champions League finals but Uefa does not currently seem too concerned about the issue over the surface.

606: DEBATE
Laurasupababe - BAFM

Uefa communications director William Gaillard said: "It is far too early worry about it so we trust the FA will find a solution.

"We also have a rule that no other match can take place in the stadium for at least 10 days beforehand."

However, the FA is not happy with the current surface and will re-lay it.

"This new pitch will be of a different composition and from a different turf nursery.

"It is believed this composition will better suit the unique Wembley Stadium environment and make it possible to deliver both a quality playing surface and a quality event calendar," the statement added.

Australia's rugby union authorities launched an investigation into whether it contributed to two Wallaby players being injured in an international against the Barbarians in December 2008.

England's 3-2 defeat at home to Croatia in November 2007 - a result that cost them a place at Euro 2008 - was played out in treacherous conditions as heavy rain failed to drain away from the field of play.

Croatia manager Slaven Bilic criticised the state of the pitch, which only weeks earlier had hosted an American football game.

The stadium has also hosted the Race of Champions rally event, where it was covered in tarmac, as well as a number of music concerts and rugby league's Challenge Cup final.



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see also
Man Utd 0-0 Everton (aet)
19 Apr 09 |  FA Cup
Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
18 Apr 09 |  FA Cup
Ferguson questions ref decision
19 Apr 09 |  FA Cup
Wembley to host 2011 Euro final
29 Jan 09 |  Europe
Aussies plan Wembley pitch probe
09 Dec 08 |  Rugby Union
Bilic blasts poor Wembley pitch
21 Nov 07 |  Internationals
The new Wembley Stadium
15 May 07 |  Football


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