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Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Wednesday, 23 June 2010 12:09 UK

Wembley pitch consultants resign after 13 months

Wembley's pitch
Wembley's multi-use surface has come in for repeated criticism

The company responsible for the pitch at Wembley Stadium has resigned.

Sports Turf Research Institute had been responsible for the playing surface at the national stadium since May 2009.

The pitch, which has been relaid 11 times since Wembley reopened in 2007, has been heavily criticised, not least after the FA Cup semi-finals in April.

The Football Association is to use a new company, Desso Sports Systems, on a trial basis to lay the pitch for the FA Community Shield on 8 August.

The surface was described as "ridiculous" by Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp following his side's FA Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Portsmouth.

Aston Villa and England midfielder James Milner had called it "one of the worst pitches you play on all year," after his side lost to Manchester United in the Carling Cup final on 28 February.

And Blackpool's Gary Taylor-Fletcher blamed the playing surface for the ankle injury he suffered during May's Championship play-off final victory over Cardiff.

"We have had many constructive and positive discussions with Wembley over the last few weeks on what would be the best way forward to make significant improvements to the pitch," said STRI chief executive Gordon McKillop.

Those talks, according to McKillop, should see improvements to the pitch during 2010.

"This new structure of pitch does not require the previous level of research and consultancy from the STRI team and, therefore, we feel it is the right time to resign," he added.

As part of the plan to repay the £750m cost of the new Wembley the FA has to allow other sports and events to use the stadium.

The crucial balance for us is to maintain a good quality playing surface for football, whilst at the same time fulfilling our business plan commitments and maintaining our heritage as a multi-event venue

Roger Malin, Wembley National Stadium Limited

The pitch cut up particularly badly after an American football game between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins in November 2007, three-and-a-half weeks before England lost to Croatia in a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier.

With American rock band Green Day performing at Wembley last Saturday, Desso can now lay the pitch that is to be used for the entire 2010-11 season.

"The pitch is at the heart of the stadium and football is our number one priority," a statement from Wembley National Stadium Limited managing director Roger Malin read.

"However, Wembley Stadium is a multi-use venue and developing our event calendar with a range of football, rugby, sports and entertainment events is key to the success of our business plan.

"The crucial balance for us is to maintain a good quality playing surface for football, whilst at the same time fulfilling our business plan commitments and maintaining our heritage as a multi-event venue."

But the FA has said that should England win the right to host the 2018 World Cup finals, Wembley will only be used for football in the year leading up to the tournament



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see also
England 3-1 Mexico
24 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Wembley surface worries Ferdinand
24 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Wembley set for talks over pitch
14 Apr 10 |  Football
Wembley pitch to be relaid often
19 Apr 10 |  Football
Wembley pitch faces new criticism
11 Apr 10 |  Tottenham
Milner criticises Wembley pitch
02 Mar 10 |  Football
FA to address Wembley pitch issue
20 Apr 09 |  Football
Why is the Wembley pitch so poor?
22 Apr 09 |  Magazine


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