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Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 16:38 UK

Wembley to re-lay turf for finals

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

Wembley Stadium's controversial pitch is to be dug up immediately, the Football Association has confirmed.

The surface will be ready for the FA Trophy final on 9 May, as well as the Football League play-off finals and the FA Cup final on 30 May.

The new turf will be of a different composition from the current rye grass surface that was heavily criticised after the FA Cup semi-finals.

It was initially planned that the pitch would be re-laid in the summer.

But England's World Cup qualifier against Andorra on 10 June will now also be played on the new pitch.

The Football Association said in a statement on Monday that "further improvements" were required.

It is really embarrassing - somebody must give an explanation

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the Wembley pitch

And the FA along with Wembley Stadium has now taken the decision to re-lay the surface immediately after carrying out a review of the pitch and its maintenance programme.

The stadium took seven years to complete and cost £750m but the pitch appeared to cut up severely throughout both FA Cup semi-final matches last weekend, which were played in dry conditions.

The grass has been re-laid five times since Wembley re-opened in 2007 and the new surface will be a 'sand-soil' pitch.

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

He said: "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.

"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."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex 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.

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 watching Saturday's match between Chelsea and Arsenal, 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."

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Everton boss David 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."

Wembley, which will host the 2011 Champions League final, has been repeatedly criticised for the state of the pitch.

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
FA to address Wembley pitch issue
20 Apr 09 |  Football
Why is the Wembley pitch so poor?
22 Apr 09 |  Magazine
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
Wembley loses 2010 final over tax
28 Mar 08 |  Europe
The new Wembley Stadium
15 May 07 |  Football
Aussies plan Wembley pitch probe
09 Dec 08 |  Rugby Union
Bilic blasts poor Wembley pitch
21 Nov 07 |  Internationals

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