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Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 16:11 UK

Groundsmen's group invited to Wembley pitch meeting

By Dan Roan
BBC Sports Correspondent

Wembley Stadium
The Wembley pitch was branded a "disgrace" by Harry Redknapp

A meeting will be held at Wembley next Monday over the national stadium's much-criticised pitch.

Wembley Stadium has invited professional body the Institute of Groundsmanship to the talks, along with "several other stakeholders".

The groundsmen's organisation said it hoped the meeting "might be the start of finding a long-term solution".

The Football Association is likely to decide to lay the stadium's 11th pitch since 2007, BBC Sport understands.

Harry Redknapp became the latest football manager to heavily criticise the pitch's condition on Sunday after he saw his Tottenham team and opponents Portsmouth struggle on the slippery surface, which cut up badly during the sides' FA Cup semi-final.

The previous day, in the other FA Cup semi-final, Chelsea and Aston Villa players suffered similar problems with their footing.

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Wembley will host a rugby union game between Guinness Premiership teams Saracens and Harlequins on Saturday and fears have been expressed that the pitch will again be in poor condition for the FA Cup decider on 15 May and the England football team's World Cup warm-up match against Mexico on 24 May.

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

The debts incurred in the construction of the stadium mean that events need to be staged at Wembley on a regular basis to ensure a steady stream of income.

However, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has warned that if the problem is not sorted soon, a sub-standard pitch could damage England's 2018 World Cup bid.

Last year head groundsman Steve Welch was sacked and replaced by consultants from the Sports Turf Research Institute, who oversee the Wembley groundstaff.

The Institute of Groundsmanship were angered by the decision, and felt Welch had been unfairly blamed, and now their chief executive, Geoff Webb, will attend Monday's meeting.

Webb described cultivating the Wembley surface like "growing grass in a shoebox" but said the problems can be overcome with the right attention.

"Wembley Stadium is imposing but there are many others around the world like the Nou Camp that have equally similar structures," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"It's not in the interest of anyone to see the national stadium's surface under continued scrutiny and speculation. Wembley is an iconic football venue which deserves the optimum playing surface.

"It can be fixed, it needs the right people to look at the ongoing issue and a plan of action to solve that."



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see also
Wembley pitch to be relaid often
19 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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