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Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 18:55 UK

Wembley pitch will be relaid indefinitely up to 2023

Inspecting Wembley pitch

Why is the Wembley pitch being relaid again?

Wembley's operators have refused to put a figure on how often the stadium's much-maligned pitch will be relaid.

Earlier on Monday BBC Sport had learned that the surface would be changed up to seven times a year until at least 2023.

"There is provision for pitches to be changed over the course of a season, but there is no set number," said Wembley operators in a statement.

"We'll continue to work with industry experts to deliver a pitch to the quality everyone in the country wants."

With work continuing on the venue's 11th surface since 2007, ongoing loan repayments to meet the cost of the £750m stadium means Wembley will remain multi-purpose for another 13 years.

On Monday, the Institute of Groundsmanship, the Football Association and the consultants who oversee Wembley groundstaff held talks in an attempt to find a long-term solution to a problem which reared its head once again during the FA Cup semi-finals on 10 and 11 April.

"We appreciate we have to improve the quality of the pitch and we are determined to do so," added the statement from Wembley's organisers.

"We've enjoyed constructive meetings with a number of industry consultants who support our strategy and we will continue to liaise with them."

Harry Redknapp became the latest football manager to heavily criticise the pitch's condition after he saw his Tottenham team and opponents Portsmouth struggle on a slippery surface which cut up all too easily when the two sides clashed in the second semi-final.

The previous day Chelsea and Aston Villa players had suffered similar problems with their footing.

Redknapp slams 'Sunday league' pitch

The pitch came in for more wear and tear when Wembley hosted a rugby union game between Premiership teams Saracens and Harlequins on Saturday.

And with the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Portsmouth to be played at the venue on 15 May - as well as three Football League play-off finals, the Blue Square Premier play-off final, FA Trophy and FA Vase finals and England's World Cup warm-up match against Mexico during the month - Wembley Stadium announced on Sunday that work had begun on a new surface.

"The pitch will be the same type as was used in the latter part of last year," a statement read.

However, the timing of that decision has been questioned by the Institute of Groundsmanship, the professional body that was invited to Monday's meeting.

"Clearly it would have been better to go in and actually see the pitch that was down," the group's chief executive, Geoff Webb, told BBC Radio 5 live.

"So, having not having not had the opportunity to do that all we can do is ask the questions that everybody else is asking," he added.

The shortcomings of the new Wembley's 10 pitches - which have come at a combined cost of over £1m to the FA - have been put down to overuse by many observers.

"There's no doubt that Wembley's status as a multi-sport venue is a factor," said BBC Sport correspondent Dan Roan.

"There is overuse because of the fact that the FA had to spend so much money building this stadium, which cost around £750m. There is a huge debt still to pay off, and that debt has to be serviced."

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In addition to showpiece football matches and rugby union club games, Wembley also stages rugby league's Challenge Cup final, NFL games, music concerts and has even hosted motorsport events in the past - around a dozen non-football events a year, in fact.

"There are venues around the world which do stage concerts and non-football events successfully without the pitch having to be relaid," added Roan.

"I spoke to a groundsman last week who was of the opinion that the stadium was designed badly, the pitch was laid too early in its development, and, because of the sheer size of the stands at Wembley, not enough light and air gets to the turf."

Groundsman's chief Webb, meanwhile, inferred that the blame may lie at the feet of consultants the Sports Turf Research Institute, who replaced sacked head groundsman Steve Welch last year.

"I think it's coming down to the management of the situation itself within the stadium," he said. "You've got to look at the decision-making process and you've got to look at the control of that process as well."

"Ironically, I think it's almost a year to the day that Steve Welch, who was well-respected within the industry and had a good track record at Nottingham Forest - he was Groundsman of the Year in 2002 - parted company.

"From our perspective we believe there are lots of people with the adequate skills to manage a pitch such as Wembley Stadium. We've been inundated with people offering help and assistance."



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see also
Wembley set for talks over pitch
14 Apr 10 |  Football
Wembley pitch faces busy schedule
12 Apr 10 |  Football
Wembley pitch faces new criticism
11 Apr 10 |  Tottenham
Wembley pitch to be relaid again
06 Mar 10 |  Football
Saracens boss defends Wembley use
24 Mar 10 |  Saracens
Milner criticises Wembley pitch
02 Mar 10 |  Football
Aussies plan Wembley pitch probe
09 Dec 08 |  Rugby Union
Bilic critical of Wembley pitch
21 Nov 07 |  Football
Why is the Wembley pitch so poor?
22 Apr 09 |  Magazine
State of Wembley pitch criticised
20 Apr 09 |  England
Superbowl ruins Wembley turf
30 Oct 07 |  England


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