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Wembley must get back to grass roots

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Gordon Farquhar | 18:32 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

The old Wembley Stadium was many things to many people.

Home in 1966 of the English nation's finest footballing hour (well 90 minutes plus extra time) and for decades a place of pilgrimage for fans enjoying the agony and ecstasy of their club's hard-earned cup final.

As the backdrop to the 1948 London Olympics, its Twin Towers became an instantly recognisable, even iconic, piece of sporting architecture. It was also a pain to get in and out of, didn't have enough loos, and if you weren't careful with your choice of seat you'd wind up behind a pillar.

By the time it closed, it was outdated, and becoming unfit for purpose.

But the pitch... the pitch.

Somehow on FA Cup final day, the sun always shone, the grass sward looked like a billiard table, and everyone loved playing there.

Or at least that's how we remember it. In fact, sometimes it chucked it down, the surface cut up and there were complaints, not least following the 1970 Cup final played shortly after the Horse of the Year show. Leeds and Chelsea fought out a 2-2 draw on what cricket fans of a certain age might refer to as a sticky dog - with potholes.

Even then, there were compromises to be made because of the Football Association's obligation to make Wembley pay its way.

The problem now is that the huge running cost of the stadium means it needs to be used a lot, and for many different things, from humble old football matches to motorsport extravaganzas.

It needs to be a cash cow, not an albatross. The FA needs Wembley to make money partly because of the huge mortgage on it, but also because part of its raison d'etre is to develop and invest in the national game. If Wembley's a success, the logic follows that the game's grass roots will be better nourished.

But it's grass roots of another kind that are the primary issue here.

Managers used to relish the prospect of a game at Wembley, knowing their players could stroke the ball around all day with confidence - not so any longer.

Arsene Wenger last year likened the prospect of playing at Wembley as being about as welcome as a visit to a dentist using equipment designed in the 1950s.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Martin O'Neill and Harry Redknapp have all savaged the playing surface and even the Wallabies rugby players gave it a kicking after they appeared there a couple of years ago, for cutting up so badly that scrummaging became nigh-on impossible.

Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor slips on the Wembley pitch on SaturdayAston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor slips on the Wembley pitch in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final. Photo: PA.

Ever since the first of the now 10 pitches was laid at the new stadium, there have been problems. Twelve months ago, the FA took radical steps, replacing grounds manager Steve Welch, bringing in a specialist consultancy company and thinking again.

On current evidence, the outcome hasn't improved.

After his departure, Welch said he believed the problems went back to 2003, when the stadium specification was decided. He inherited a surface laid and maintained by the building contractors, and said he'd flagged up a number of potential issues including drainage and irrigation, all of which subsequently materialised.

In their own publicity material in 2007, the FA spoke of creating a pitch worthy of the "Venue of Legends", emphasising that the latest tried and tested technology was being employed "with a fibre sand pitch made up of an underlying web of heating and drainage pipes, with grasses selected from 250 different varieties with up to 200,000 leaf blades in every square metre".

The FA have been rather less voluble about their much-vaunted pitch recently. Perhaps because they're having to face up to the reality that there currently doesn't seem to be an answer to the question of how to make the stadium pay, whilst actually making it play.


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  • Comment number 1.

    How difficult can it be to lay at least a playable pitch? The problem isn't that it's an average pitch, it's genuinely awful, I've rarely seen a pitch cut up as badly as the Wembley one does. Surely, with the science that goes into top level pitches, the Wembley surface COULD be fantastic, and I refuse to believe that anything other than poor groundsmanship and repeated relaying are cauing these problems, many of this countries grounds have been there for hundreds of years and pitch has been modified over time, and these are surfaces used most weeks. The wembley surface is a disgrace.

  • Comment number 2.

    £750+m and what do we get, a pitch worse than any in the PL and that includes the one we had here in Wigan earlier this season, it may not have had much grass on it, but at least it was level and didn't cut up.

    We all know the money would have been better spent if spread around the country, imagine shared venues in Liverpool, Sheffield and Birmingham, each of which the envy of everyone else in England (with the possible exception of Arsenal).
    Mentioning Arsenal, how could they build a stadium only 20% smaller for around half the cost and make sure that the pitch (which is used far more regularly than Wembley) is so perfect every week?

    The people at the FA have an awful lot to answer for, second after how they can justify their wages, would be the farce that is Wembley.

  • Comment number 3.

    And, to be fair, it's not even all that as a stadium!

    I have been to most of the major grounds in Europe in the last 5 or 6 years and I dont really like the new Wembley. It lacks individuality. (And it cost HOW MUCH!?!??)

    And then to have that duff pitch... well... maybe it's just midlands bias, but I think a big smart new stadium near the NEC would and could blow Wembley away. If only they would put a little more imagination into the overall design.

    Ah well.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think the problem lays deeper than the amount its played on. If this was the case, when a new surface is introduced it should play well but it doesn't.

    I've not seen one game of football at new wembley that has been half decent, no one trusts the ground and no one can express themselves.

    I agree even the wigan pitch is better than wembley.

    I dont think we can let another spectacle be ruined by this pitch, I tihnk the games should be played in cardiff until its sorted

  • Comment number 5.

    £750 million on a stadium and the one thing it can't do is cope with sport being played there!

  • Comment number 6.

    I live and work in Germany where there isn't a "national stadium" as such like Wembley to be a weight around the neck of the national team. International games are spread-out over the best stadiums in the country, an added benefit to the "local" fans who get the chance to see games live that they otherwise would only see on TV.
    Beating the Germans in Germany is a feather in anyone's cap, but beating England at Wembley somehow has a much better better ring to it...probably coaxing an extra 10 to 15% out of visiting teams.
    Why not give the turf at Wembley a chance to bed-in, let's say a full serason, dish the internationals out to the the provinces, where the stadiums are probably almost as good as Wembley, the pitches certainly would be better, and more-than-likely, the fans would be more voiciferous. Get the WRC or whoever it is who do the charade that is the "Race of Champions" to go race around Silverstone or Kielder Forest - much more their "home turf"...
    U2 / Mad-onna / Robbie W / AC-DC and the rest of them could find other venues (Hyde Park / Knwebworth ?) to cram their loyal fans into, and the "egg-chasers" have good-old Twickers just up the street anyway...
    The 'Orses have also enough alternatives...
    Keep off the Grass..... please !!

  • Comment number 7.

    The pitch at Wembley has been aweful of late. How can the FA justify the massive ammount of money that has been spent on Wembley when it's so often in such poor condition for big games? The can't. Most Premier League grounds are fit for use week in week out - the exception being extremely poor weather - so obviously something is going badly wrong. If the FA are serious about their World Cup bit, it needs sorting out, and fast.

  • Comment number 8.

    first of all. the FA Cup killer is playing the semi-finals at the same venue as the final.
    But this year, surely, with both finalist from the south. Play the final on the best pitch (i'm a tottenham supporter) at the Emirates stadium. The semis were a disgrace with regards to the pitch both games had to play on. You can't play football on the floor at wembley. Count the amount of players slipping throughout both games. And of course Portsmouth's first goal. I shouldn't deal in this blog about the fact that the biggest element putting the game into disrepute is FIFA's pathetic opinion to not have the already installed television replay to determine major decisions. Like Crouch's disallowed goal on the weekend and a feast of others week in and week out. Why does the Premier League not boycott FIFA and get on and use the obvious. How much time would be saved in arguments, if the video judge was brought in. Remember the bad old days of "YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING!" Bring back Mc Enroe.%!%!***

  • Comment number 9.

    This is slightly tangential, but I think some of the magic of Wembley, and indirectly some of the magic of cup finals, was lost when semi-finals started to be played there. I watched the Chelsea - Aston Villa game at the weekend, and I could lip read some Chelsea fans singing "We're going to Wembley" once the game was safe. It was amusing, but also quite sad. But that's just me being nostalgic.

    Of course, the FA will try to play as many games as possible there, to be able to pay for it, and that has a detrimental effect on the pitch. But if they have to have all those games, as well as other sporting events, and concerts, and so on, just to cover its "huge mortgage", then it raises, again, the question of why they paid so much for it in the first place.

    And after they did spend all that money, the least we could expect would be a decent playing surface. Surely it can't be that hard to get right?

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree with the sentiments of other posters. There is no excuse in this day and age for the supposed national stadium not to produce a pitch fit for top class games.
    On the other hand top players should be able to play on bad pitches. we all played on them on public parks and schools.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Millennium Stadium's pitch was just as bad; All Blackpool fans will remember our 'keeper slipping in the first minute of a play-off final vs Orient, and the subsequent goal scorer slipped as he celebrated.

    The old Wembley was seldom used for any thing other than football or rugby, whereas most stadiums these days tend to be used for all manner of entertainment. The problem now, is that without additional revenue streams stadia cannot be financed, and the price the FA must pay is several hundred thousand pounds for a new pitch at regular intervals...

  • Comment number 12.

    The issue here is that the core sub-structure of the pitch (the drainage and base) was specified incorrectly.

    The base is overly hard, the drainage system doesn't work properly, and, although I have no way of proving it, it would appear that the grass roots are not burying themselves into the base but going sideways - creating a grass carpet that as soon as any pressure is brought to bear - tears! Imagine running into a room where a new carpet is being laid but has not yet been tacked down, stop suddenly and the carpet will gather in front of you in waves. Well at Wembley, the grass doesn't have the tensile strength of carpet so it just tears, cuts up and we get a laughable mess.

    The FA need to take drastic action. tear up the drainage system, tear up the base system. Think again and re-do, perhaps they should pay Arsenal for some consultancy......

  • Comment number 13.

    Given the vicinity of top class pitches, and the available technologies there is no reason for wembley to be such a total farce. In the 2002 World cup the Japanese and Korean stadia had interchangeable surfaces, so the grass could be wheeled out and another pitch or something for a concert or motorsports event could be brought in. I realise that retro-fitting this system would be exceedingly expensively prohibitive but come on, there was this tech 5 years before the opening yet another massive expenditure blunders pointlessly into the C21st and costs taxpayers and in this case sports fans hideously. Pompey's first goal came from the pitch, all the games look like they would be more suited to people in considerably different footwear and yet another set of consultants has been hired by a public body, so chance are there will be little success.

    I can not wait for the playoff finals though, 3 games in 3 days and scarcely the time to acquire some grass before the FA cup final, that''ll be a true thriller with no-one able to play on what is likely to look like a pitch that has been hammered all season by multiple sports.

    I seriously wish England could get its act together with public funds, alas I fear I am living in a dreamworld.

  • Comment number 14.

    I've been to the stadium several times, & the facilities inside are hugely better than the old stadium. Brown-Bottle - The Race of Champions didn't use the pitch, I think their circuits were all laid on top, & anyway this year they're going where its warmer! The NFL teams managed to play on it last autumn. But on Sunday I watched players try to run, & fall over as soon as they put any force on the ground. Absolutely ridiculous. World Cup bid - mud wrestling?

  • Comment number 15.

    I was at Wembley on Saturday supporting Villa. I saw James Milner change his boots in the warm up because he slipped over. He then changed them again about 10 minutes into the game. It was trecherous! Many of the top class players from both sides had difficulty standing up, let alone playing decent football. It was lucky no-one got injured trying to turn quickly.

    And we talk about hosting 2018? I'm afraid we are just giving the authorities an excuse for not letting us host the tournament. It needs sorting properly by specialists, whatever the cost. Otherwise, we may as well forget playing sport on it and use it solely as a music venue...

  • Comment number 16.

    Did Wilkins not say the pitch was fine. Its just that it was a bit greasy? I remember playing for my primary school team and the pitch was on a hill! Nobody complained. Get over it.

  • Comment number 17.

    The F.A have a lot to answer for at the moment. They are ruining games, week in week out, and the Wembley pitch has turned the Cup Finals and the F.A Cup Semi into a farce. A truly shambolic organisation.

  • Comment number 18.

    The key to holding the pitch together is a really good root system. I've got to believe that the technology being used at Wembley is stifling root growth, so there is nothing to bind the sand/soil/fibre base together.

    Maybe there is too much sand. As is seen in sand dunes, they are fragile because they are pretty much all sand, and the only stabilizing factor is the root system of the grasses and plants that grow on them.

    Maybe there is not enough sun getting to the field. One can only assume that they employ the lighting rigs that most teams with enclosed-style stadiums use these days...

    Ultimately, I would say that the FA need to get Arsenal's or Man Utd's grounds crew to take a good long look at the Wembley problem, because the people they are using right now appear to be clueless. If the ground is really problematic, maybe ask the Chelsea or Fulham staff, who have to deal with the issue of being in the Thames basin, and have to contrast good drainage with good cohesion...

  • Comment number 19.

    I live in Portugal and for euro 2004 a few new stadiums were made for the finals and they all had the same problems. The problem with grass is that it needs time to bed in. They laid this new pitch 3 weeks ago not enough time especially with london weather (Rain, cold and humid) all of these factors make it harder for the grass to gain roots and therefore it cuts up. If that is the only problem the FA has to bite the bullet and not hold any events there for a good few months. Otherwise this will continue to happen.

    Another bigger problem is if the stadium has some sort of design fault that dosen't allow the pitch to bed. Over here Sporting's stadium suffers from the fact that one part of the pitch doesn't recieve enough sunlight and that makes the grass cut up. Another problem could be not enough ventilation or drainage. This would mean more money having to be invested to solve the problem.

    One solution is to put astroturf :)

  • Comment number 20.

    I'll admit the pitch has quite a pain at Wigan but both sides have to play on it, no team can complain of "oh we play the passing game and the pitch ruins it" because we also play the same game so it's perfectly even for both sides + it's been relaid so there's definitely no need to complain.

    Moving onto the Wembley pitch, i'll probably get hung, drawn and quarterd for saying this but maybe artificial turf is the future as Sepp Blatter said, i say if it's good enough for the Russian national team (Luzhniki Stadium) it's good enough for the England team and any English cup competition.

  • Comment number 21.

    VengefulRod your primary school team were hardly challenging for a spot in the FA Cup final was they ?

  • Comment number 22.

    Even Chelsea's all-sand pitch of a few years ago and the Luzhniki's plastic pitch play better than Wembley's. It's not just totally unsuited to a good game of football, it's unsafe as well. Players could very easily pick up ligament injuries from slipping unexpectedly.

    Surely they just need to go to any club/stadium with a good surface (United, City and Arsenal all have good surfaces in modern stadia) and find out how they do it. Then copy it.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think spilton210 has got the crux of the problem. I don't think it has anything to do with all of the new pitches they have relaid and not that much to do with all the multi-events being staged at Wembley. Imagine they spent all those hundreds of millions on the stadium and didn't stop to think how much sunlight the proposed design would see the pitch getting. I would suspect that the FA do know this - but they're not going to admit spending £7-800 million on a structure that would need re-building within it's first decade.

    It seems very very obvious to me and I'm not sure why other people haven't cottoned on to this. I actually can't see a very cheap cure eitherEvery other large stadium I have seen has either a very wide roof or a see through roof top where UV light light can filter through and down onto pitch side. Wembley does not have this and from the look of the stadium I would bet that the actual pitch doesn't see that much sunlight at all. All the gardeners in the world can't produce a garden without sunlight or at least a very big UV lamp! I suspect that it could be a mix of spilton210's comment and this very obvious point that the Wembley stadium doesn't have the correct roof that allows UV to be emitted through it. Would be interested to hear whether anyone else has cottoned on to this.

  • Comment number 24.

    I don't think playing semi finals at Wembley spoils the final. It was never playing at Wembley that made the FA Cup Final special, it was the fact that it was the FA Cup Final. It didn't become a non-event when it went to Cardiff from 2001 to 2006.

    Besides, playing at Wembley isn't really that unusual; everything is played there, from play-off finals to the lower cup finals. Even my team, Stockport County, have played at Wembley five times in my lifetime and I'm only 25.

    If the semis were at Villa Park or Old Trafford, thousands of fans wouldn't be able to attend. And I still can't help thinking that, twenty years ago, the current Wembley playing surface would have been considered one of the better pitches in England. Players need to worry less about fashion or sponsorship deals and start wearing the right boots.

  • Comment number 25.

    A flipping shambles-like most everything the FA is involved in!

    As a Man U fan, I'd say all 4 sides in these semis suffered from it, but all that meant was 4 teams efforts were potentially decided by the toss of a coin, or the slip of a foot, rather than skill. Chelski were most ruthless & determined & that's why they eventually won at a canter-suspect they'd have done so again on a decent pitch.

    But these are showpiece games, so either we book them for OT/Emirates/Cardiff for next season NOW and dig this mess up & start again or we forget about 2018 bids. Sorry, but it is dragging things down already, so let's have some action, please.

  • Comment number 26.

    maybe if they didnt relay the pitch every few months the grass might grow into the soil and not cut up?

  • Comment number 27.

    When the plans were being drawn up for the Emirates Stadium the number one priority was the playing surface.
    The Stadium itself was designed and built around it.
    You get the feeling that with the FA their first priority was to design a stadium that could generate the most income.
    Playing the semis at Wembley has been a disaster for the heritage of the FA Cup - the magic has gone.
    I quite agree with previous posters that playing England Internationals around the many fine stadia in the country worked fine, as long as the big games were shared out fairly.
    The only problems were where to play the Cup Finals.
    The new Wembley has been a disaster since they knocked down the twin towers.
    Maybe the FA should put in a bid for the Olympic Stadium, with its purpose built infrastructure to enable visitors easier access to and from the ground and a 80,000 capacity.
    It can't be worse than Wembley !

  • Comment number 28.

    Players slip because the surface is so wet, so stop watering it, let it dry out. You don't have to be an astrophysist to figure that one out

  • Comment number 29.

    The FA have made a mess of Wembley from start to (delayed) finish. It took too long to build, has too many corporate seats, and is not worth £750m (Cardiff is probably a better stadium at £130m).
    The price we had to pay for holding an NFL game before a crucial match: England 2 Croatia 3

  • Comment number 30.

    I agree with The Midland 20. It lacks individuality. To me, growing up, the twin towers were magical and the pitch on FA Cup Final day was always glorious. Commentators admired it and told us how the teams might exploit it's rich expanse, then tire upon it. It was special. It was a not just a venue worthy of a final, but a venue that inspired competition to get there - "We are on our way to Wembley!". I still resent that we discarded history, the symbolism, the identity - in favour of a generic stadium, a trite arch and a pathetic pitch. We have been robbed. We are never more on our way to Wembley - not when we would be just as rather be on our way to any other stadium.

  • Comment number 31.

    Don't forget the roof, it doesn't even work!!!

    In a way it should be funny seeing how terrible Wembley is, but then you actually think about it and how much money was spent, how long it took and how much the FA are paid and you actually begin to get really angry.

    When was the last time the FA actually did anything good?

  • Comment number 32.

    The FA should be ashamed of themselves shelling out £100k+ each time to resurface the pitch within a £750m+ stadium! Surely by allocating games around England would have helped to unify the country within the game, not give the media more ammo to aid it's destruction!

  • Comment number 33.

    21. At 9:35pm on 12 Apr 2010, BlueNWhiteArmy wrote:

    VengefulRod your primary school team were hardly challenging for a spot in the FA Cup final was they ?


    We were competing for a chance to win the much coveted Lettershandoney-Claudy Fairs cup! We won! But only because we were running down the hill for the second half lol! I'd say they're pretty close to getting the pitch just right. Why are you getting onto the FA about it anyway, the people they have in working on the pitch are probably one of the best in the business and thats all you can ask the FA to do surely? And also, its not like the only game you've seen where some players slipped while playing football.

  • Comment number 34.

    @VengefulRod.. You're comment is laughable, I bet nobody complained when you were served lumpy gravy at said primary school, however, You wouldn't walk into a michelin star restaurant and expect primary school grub would you?

  • Comment number 35.

    Hmmm it's very frustrating n all, but some people need to get some perspective. It's not a 'disgrace', it's not 'disgusting' etc, it's a FOOTBALL pitch, on which a bunch of men effectiveky run around and kick a ball.

    But aside from this, people are remembering the Cardiff pitch, and even the old Wembley pitch a bit differently to me...perhaps they love to complain? I remember the Cardiff pitch being cut up so much that the England pack couldn't scrummage, I remember it being left in such a state following the 6N that it had to be relaid or repaird in time for the football. I also remember Wembley being described as lush, and difficult to play free- flowing, fast football. Are these the same observers who remember it as a 'billiard table'?

    Nothing's going to change. The FA needs its money, the Wembley pitch won't get the 2 years it needs for a re-lay to properly bed in anytime soon.

  • Comment number 36.

    Pete Stern

    the decision not to use video technology isn't one for FIFA but for the International Football Board, comprising FIFA, FA, SFA, WFA and IFA and the majority voted against using it.

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree with previous suggestions on hosting big games and events elsewhere until the problems are sorted out.

    So now that Wembley has gone the way of British Rail... why? In the case of the railways, it was because management got too uppity and kicked the engineers out. (It's not unique to Britain - it happened to big organizations elsewhere - like NASA, General Motors, etc.) Is that the case here? Did those who made decisions during the bidding process lack the technical expertise to get past the BS spun by the winning bidder?
    How on earth did Britain manage to build one stadium at TWICE the amount it cost Portugal to build SEVEN (admittedly smaller, but still top class) stadiums for Euro 2004?

  • Comment number 38.

    The spend so much on a stadium, making it look nice but they forgot the pitch which is the most important thing!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    OK, firstly why Wembley was never designed to use the same model as the University of Phoenix stadium whereby the pitch is on rollers and can be shoved out into the car park, thus giving it all the sun it needs and freeing up the stadium for far more non-traditional sports is beyond me. That stadium took 3 years to build, cost $455 million US and seats 72k - to stretch it to Wembley's 90k wouldn't cost the difference between it's actual price and the £800 million I've seen here.

    Secondly, stadia hosting the Superbowl for example have a damn rock concert on the field during half time, and the pitch is never any worse for wear. How is it that with fair warning and and comparitive ages to prepare a pitch Wembley's is always so dreadful?

    Thirdly, and I know this has been a very American-centric post already, but bear with me. After the NFL game either last year or the year before (I forget), everyone had moaned that that had ruined the pitch. Never mind that that same week Heinz Field in Pittsburgh had hosted three American football games in three days and looked and played just fine for the entire duration.

    Fourthly, Luzhniki. I don't think artificial surfaces are the answer (despite playing multiple times a week on one myself for the last 3 years), even though they are certainly not as bad as most people would have you believe.

    Why the national stadium of the same country that invented the most popular sport on earth can't have a playing surface fit for players of any caliber, let alone the best playing in this country and come 2012 the best in the world is an absolute mystery to me, and frankly, someone needs to lose a job over it.

  • Comment number 40.

    I have another gripe about Wembley. Does anyone know why they moved the TV cameras down to a lower position than when the first games were shown? They used to be at a similar height to the old Wembley and it gave the impression of the big pitch. Now I feel you don't get the depth perception as you did before.

  • Comment number 41.

    The key reason for this mess is that the FA don't have to justify this to anyone. They are not answerable to you, me or anyone. If they want to build an over expensive (I know we all say how much?) office for themselves which has a dodgy pitch at the back, they can, and use tons of our money doing it. In the end the reason this is in London is that these bureaucrats wouldn't want to work outside London and the London media don't like to visit the provinces unless they have to. It is not for the fans otherwise you would build it at the NEC where there is already and Airport, a rail station, two motorways and car parking, which Wembley has non of, they would still make a mess of the pitch though.
    As a final thought, if they can't even get a stadium right after paying well over the odds for it, why would anyone trust these clowns to run the premier event in world football. If the world cup came to England the FA would make such a hash of it that it would set back English football for a generation. Lets hope that they don't get the opportunity.

  • Comment number 42.

    Well, Wembley is just a piece of duff and junk really. These problems all started when the cost spiraled beyond control. The pitch is a mess, access to the stadium is a mess, television broadcasts are a mess. And to make matters worse, somebody at FA decided to use Wembley as a cash cow? With the FA cup Semis, what happened to the good old days when these fixtures were played elsewhere. There's Old Trafford, Villa Park, Stadium of Light, St James, and recently the Emirates! All these stadiums and more have wonderful pitches and they're used much more often than Wembley!!

    If we need to host the World Cup, we're looking at 7 games in a month from Opening to Final.............. Can Wembley take it? We ALL HOPE SO, But can it be?

  • Comment number 43.

    Watched both Cup Semi's on the box over the weekend and I can't remember seeing so many players slipping over. The pitch is a disgrace and the groundsman should be hung, drawn and quartered for allowing it to get in this condition. The country is full of football pitches so it should not be to difficult for the FA to find a template to model their pitch on.
    I watched the Golf and commented that the Fairways resembled Snooker Tables and the so called rough is better than most of the greens I have putted on. Seems the Wembley turf is the same, short, hard and sprayed with a light coating of water. Great for making it easy for highly paid golfers to look good but unfortunately not compatible with 22 grown men running around at speed with a ball at their feet.
    Can the FA possibly concentrate on making the pitch playable and not just beautiful to look at.
    It seems we have gone to far from when we played Leeds in the 1970 FA Cup Final on a mud bath of a pitch but at least the players studs could get a footing.
    Maybe the FA have seen the popularity of "Dancing on Ice" and have decided that is the way to go.

  • Comment number 44.

    They need to dig that turf up and stick it back in the farmers field that it came from. Then they can sort out the drainage problems that are a big part of the problem. Once that's done how about seeding it there and giving it time to actually take root and grow, thats got to give you a more rugged and durable playing surface than growing it in a field off site, then digging it up and bringing it in.

  • Comment number 45.

    Yes, a sliding pitch would have been a good answer, the technology exists and is used notably at Sapporo in Japan and the Gelredome at Arnhem in Holland.

    However, it seriously dictates the whole design of the stadium and one end has to be a vast bridge with (potentially) limited seating capacity and the architect would fight against having his concept dictated to by engineering (the arch as it sits would have been impossible with a sliding pitch). And the external pitch area would have effectively increased the stadium footprint by some 70% without generating any additional revenue.

    The basic problem at Wembley will almost certainly be in the sub-structure below the turf and revolve around the materials used, the heating and the drainage. Being the last thing installed, by the time the contractors came to think about the detail the budget was probably reduced, other problems had messed up the area and the inevitable compromises happened.

    The sunlight issue is probably valid - but if you re-lay a pitch it really needs two to three months active growth to stabilise. A pitch re-laid between September and March simply doesn't get that because the grass is dormant!

    So if you use the stadium through the summer for concerts etc then re-lay it in September or October you are wasting your money unless you use a palletised system (much criticised at Cardiff) or some other form of 'deep turf' (deep being at least a foot deep) which has a fully stabilised root system.

    The FA management, more interested in the corporate boxes and the commercial income levels, won't have been the best people to make sure the pitch was THE priority and whatever happened, it had to be right, even if that meant less plush carpets in their offices.

  • Comment number 46.

    The Wembley pitch is not just an embarassment to to the English football establishment. It is becoming an insult to English gardnening and English gardeners.

    On a less serious note, perhaps the FA thinks that if England did win the 2018 World Cup bid, then they would have a much better chance of lifting the trophy because foreign teams would have much less experiece of playing on the difficult surface.

    Alternatively, if the pitch is such a "stickey wicket" that it reduces the result to a lottery, then England would at least have a 50% chance of winning any match played at Wembley.

  • Comment number 47.

    Perhaps they should speak to the groundsman at the Millennium Stadium? We had massive problems with the pitch but in fairness they've now sorted it out. they might be able to help out the Wembley people

  • Comment number 48.

    Yes, bring in a consultancy that will fix all the problems... *rolleyes*

    "Consultancy - if your not part of the solution, there's money to be made prolonging the problem."

  • Comment number 49.

    Made my first visit to Wembley recently for the JPT final and although the stadium is very striking, you don't have to look too hard to find a lot of faults with it.

    Firstly, you spend all that money on the stadium, but you only have to walk 100 yards from the turnstiles to find crumbling roads and pavements and lots of empty and run down industrial units that just look awful. The whole area needed revamping in conjunction with the local council and national government to make it a fit venue.

    Secondly, the concourse surrounding the stadium is small and creates bottle necking. No other modern stadium I can think of of that size has so little room around it.

    Thirdly, too much focus was put upon the suites, boxes and club wembley areas and not the bulk of the stadium for the fans. The toilets are small which leads to long queues that don't appear to be much better than at the old Wembley.

    Fourthly, and most importantly for the topic in question, the stadium was not designed with producing a good pitch in mind. The stands are too high, there is not enough air flow over the grass (no open areas between the top tier and roof like at the Emirates) the pitch is in shadow a lot of the time and all that makes it impossible to grow a deep rooted strong pitch, especially with Wembley being a multi-use venue.

    I can see no solution apart from constantly replacing the pitch. Or, dare I say it, putting in an artifical pitch as soon as the quality of them can be assured.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ Andy (blah blah, play it in t'midlands, we have owt airport, and t'infrastructure etc etc).

    Wembley is about as ideal a location as you can possibly get. It's sandwiched between the M1 and the M4 (and therefore easily reachable from the M25), it's a failed landing's throw from Heathrow, and crucially, it's in the nation's capital. The location isn't the issue here, the pitch is. The "London media" (who occasionally report on the terrible goings on out in the provinces) don't plant the seeds, the (unfortunate) "London" groundsmen do. They're just not the same caliber "London" groundsmen who also attend to the wonderful surfaces at Highbury/Emirates, WHL, Upton Pk, Craven Cottage, and even Shamford Bridge has been acceptable of late. Perhaps the blame can be laid at the feet of the architects - amusingly, about the only part of the project not from "London"... step forward Mr Foster (of Greater Manchester, of coursE)

  • Comment number 51.

    I was lucky enough to be sitting in the "posh seats" next to the Spurs groundsman for the debacle that was Spurs v Pompey. He said it will never ever be a decent playing surface because most pitches are grown from seeds whereas Wembley simply buys its turf and lays it. Thatw oudl ordinarily be ok but Wembley then dont give it anywhere near enough time to bed in because they cant let the pitch sit idle for 10 weeks, they always need to be using it to make money.

    He likened it to an avalanche. There is a hard surface at the base and they keep just dumping new turf on top. It just doesnt bed in and the top surface just slips away from the rest of it. Only way it will be sorted is to let the pitch bed in over 10-12 weeks. but that aint gonna happen!

  • Comment number 52.

    ChocolateBoxKid: "Firstly, you spend all that money on the stadium, but you only have to walk 100 yards from the turnstiles to find crumbling roads and pavements and lots of empty and run down industrial units that just look awful. The whole area needed revamping in conjunction with the local council and national government to make it a fit venue."

    Welcome to England mate. Every stadium in the country is the same. The only stadium in "this country" I've visited which isn't in the middle of an industrial estate/run down housing etc is the Millennium which was designed as the centrepiece of Cardiff.

  • Comment number 53.

    Realise that Digger and know where you are coming from. Makes it all the more annoying that our national football stadium was compromise after compromise, with millions of quid wasted on an Arch that should have been spent elsewhere.

    Really, Wembley is a reflection of the FA itself. A glossy surface that doesn't hide the bad organisation underneath it.

  • Comment number 54.

    Comment 2 is spot on, liked 51 as well.

    It really is a disgrace that Arsenal managed to build there not much smaller stadium for half the cost of Wembley. Maybe if more effort had gone into keeping the cost down then they wouldn't have to stage so many other events there and wouldn't have to keep relaying the turf. The entire new Wembley operation was a farce from start to finish and it's a disgrace that more people weren't held accountable.

    It's sad when players would rather play on the old astro turf pitch that QPR had rather than on Wembley!

  • Comment number 55.

    #34 @VengefulRod.. You're comment is laughable, I bet nobody complained when you were served lumpy gravy at said primary school, however, You wouldn't walk into a michelin star restaurant and expect primary school grub would you?


    Whats wrong with lumpy gravy?

  • Comment number 56.

    After visiting both the Olympic Stadium in Berlin and the New Wembley, to me there is only one winner. This belief in deconstrcution/construction being better than renovation is a myth. There was potential to revelop wembley in a new yet respectful and historical way, as they did in Germany. Features that needed changing could have been altered and the good features could have remained. There are serious problems with Wembley. I am not a fan of the layout neither of the area around the ground. I find it unsympathetic and will date quicker than the old wembley did, not to mention the financial difference of redevelopment to rebuild.

    And then there is the isse of the pitch. Disasterous. They will never learn. It's because its been constantly relayed and not allowed to bed in properly. Thats the fundemental problem. Most staff arent familiar with the process of constant relaying and it's not something that people have the expertise for. To me the attendance is not big enough either and for that price they should have put a bigger capacity there and covered the transport infrastructure in more detail.

  • Comment number 57.

    "...the grass sward looked like a billiard table, and everyone loved playing there". Not so sure. Quite apart from the disgrace of 1970 referred to, football articles from the 1930's onwards refer to Wembley's "lush" surface. Whilst it looked beautiful, it was viewed as hazardous by players and coaches.

  • Comment number 58.

    As much as I'm an NFL fan, and have been to the last two games at Wembley, I can't help but think that the main contributing factor to the state of the pitch is hosting an American Football game on it in late October every year. Mind you, having rugby union on there too is hardly helping matters.

    FA Cup semi-finals shouldn't be played there anyway - it takes away the prestige of playing at Wembley in the final.

  • Comment number 59.

    40. At 06:04am on 13 Apr 2010, lorus59 wrote:
    I have another gripe about Wembley. Does anyone know why they moved the TV cameras down to a lower position than when the first games were shown? They used to be at a similar height to the old Wembley and it gave the impression of the big pitch. Now I feel you don't get the depth perception as you did before.

    I completely agree! Put the cameras where they were before! I remember watching the first FA Cup final, and was very excited about seeing Wembley. And then when they started playing I remember turning to my fiend and excitedly saying, 'They've kept it looking like old wembley.' now they've changed it...bring back the old camera angle!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Agree with some of the points here

    Firstly while a massive amount of time and effort was spent on transforming the stadium itself, nothing has been done about the surrounding area which as someone else said is full of old abandoned buildings, narrow roads which is a pretty appalling first image.

    Secondly the pitch is laughable, allowing major games to be decided due to who can stand up the longest is completely ridiculous. As someone has pointed out there must be a increased risk of serious injuries - I wonder what would happen if someone was seriously injured due to the pitch - could it be legal action followed? Is there a chance that the insurance companies that cover players could refuse to cover wembley?

    Thirdly hosting the semi finals at wembley is daft. The semi final should be at a rival neutral ground that is in the proximity of the two teams involved - that's why Old Trafford, Villa Park and Hillsbrough were used so frequently in the past depending on who was involved. Wembley first became used in 1991 as it was Tottenham v Arsenal, and there wasn't really any other big ground in London that could host a local derby, but that was just a one off - at the same time I think Villa park was used for Forest v West Ham. But as it is, we could now theoretically see a cup semi final at Wembley between Newcastle and Sunderland.

  • Comment number 61.

    Dancing on ice. Nuff said! Shocking pitch, this discussion shouldn't even be occurring as the semi finals should not be played at Wembley. We do the have the stupidest most incompetent F.A. running us

  • Comment number 62.

    Perhaps if England decided to play their matches elsewhere (and there are lots of suitable options), Wembley's owners would sit up and take notice.

  • Comment number 63.


    How on earth did Britain manage to build one stadium at TWICE the amount it cost Portugal to build SEVEN (admittedly smaller, but still top class) stadiums for Euro 2004?


    That's Britain all over.

    Too few people take too much money for doing too little.

    In the 1980's the PM of the day said "Hey, it's FINE to stick your nose in the trough!" And evey PM since has agreed with that approach.

    And THAT is what happened with Wembley. From the FA down to the contractors.

  • Comment number 64.

    I am the Grounds Manager at The Hurlingham Club in Fulham, SW London.

    I have worked in the turf care industry for over 35 years and managed most turf surfaces including football.

    I have followed with great interest and not inconsiderable frustration the ongoing saga of the pitch problems at Wembley. In 2005 I wrote a large piece for a trade magazine complaining bitterly about the salary being offered to the Wembley Grounds Manager. The salary was 35k, and put this in comparison, a salary of 35k was also being offered for the position of box office manager.
    So the role of managing one of the worlds most famous sporting venues inspected in meticulous detail by millions of grass "experts" and used by sports players worth millions of pounds, deserves no more remuneration than the person who oversees the selling of tickets.
    Ultimately though, that gesture says it all. Rather than spend an appropriate percentage of the £700,000,000 on the very reason Wembley is where it is, the FOOTBALL pitch, the stadium was built to look nice and from the outside and make money on the inside.
    If you want to see a magnificent architecturally and functionally superb stadium with a playing surface fit for the national stadium, just visit the emirates. And who did they involve in the stadium design from day guessed it the Grounds Manager.

  • Comment number 65.

    It is remarkable how many things the FA get wrong, and I do not think this perception is the result of extreme scrutiny, it is the result of incompetence.

    I like the exterior of the new Wembley, but as for the interior, the astronomical cost, the pitch, the huge corporate hospitality section that is empty after half-time: Do I not like that.

  • Comment number 66.

    Wembley sums up English football - over-priced, over-hyped, putting corporate hospitality before the game itself.

    It will go down as the defining moment of English football's demise, we will be paying for this stadium for the next 30 years

  • Comment number 67.

    Most Premiership pitches, including Arsenal, are re-sown from seed every May together with reinforcing plastic fibre. May to August is good weather for grass growing and after six weeks the pitch is as good as new and lasts the whole season.

    If Wembley stopped hosting concerts and just hosted field sports they could grow a pitch from seed instead of relaying with turf all year round.

  • Comment number 68.

    I have to agree that it's a disgrace that Wembley is once again being shown up as a white elephant.

    Sorry digger but Wembley is awful to get to by any means of transport and it was shocking that the FA refused to consider having a national stadium anywhere but London.

    Ignoring the locale once they had decided on where the new stadium was going to be built you would think that surely the first thing that they would think of would be the pitch but sadly once again the FA shows that all it is interested in is money!

  • Comment number 69.

    "By the time it closed, it was outdated, and becoming unfit for purpose."

    Gordon, given that there has not yet been a pitch installed which did not cut up and cause problems for the players, it could be said that the new Webley is not currently 'fit for purpose' either?

  • Comment number 70.

    The problem is not the surface but how it is continually watered. This gives the grass no reason to send root shots down into the ground therefore getting a better grip. We all know that root wll search for water and if the surface is dry roots will grow down to find moisture thus making the grass more stronger. The trouble is players can no longer play on dry grounds, yet how come they do it in African Countries. No pitch shoul dbe watered for at least 48 hours before kick off, if it rains then so be it, thats an other reason why grounds are more prone to flooding. To much water, get a grip you groundsaem .

  • Comment number 71.

    I think they should have moved the national stadium's location when they knocked down the old one. Wembley is so grim and the transport is a nightmare.

    Also, they now play the semis there which has always been unpopular as it takes the gloss off of reaching the final if you've already been to Wembley. Now the pitch is knobbling players too and there's hardly been a single decent football match played there since it re-opened.

    They need to take a step back, close it for as long as necessary and sort the problem rather than continually working round it by relaying and hoping for the best.

    There's an old saying 'if you pay peanuts - you get monkeys' but with serially inept self appointed management like the FA (who employs them anyway?) and similar to the London Underground maintenance fiasco, you can pay fortunes and still get monkeys.

  • Comment number 72.

    Gordon - please get your facts right. In the 1970's, Wembley was privately owned, by a subsidiary of the conglomerate BET. The FA had a contract to use Wembley Stadium, but NO need to generate revenue so the damage caused by the likes of the Horse of the Year Show was nothing to do with the FA's needs.

  • Comment number 73.

    What i dont understand is why oh why! did they water the pitch after the players warmed up after a week before Chelsea and Aston Villa complained about it but then not only that...They did it again at half time!

    Its more the 750mil its in the 900mils including all the pitch relaying costs and other costs.

    Really annoyed me at the weekend when Dawson slipped which allowed the goal.

    And why are they just realising this problem now after 10 pitches and 3 years surley after 1/2 years you would think why have we replaced the pitch so many times!

    Sounds like they was so hell bent on creating a spectacle of europe that they forgot the basics.

    I feel sorry for the groundsman that lost his job as he was used as a scape goat and it didnt even remotley solve the problem.

    Also i hope spurs are watching this as they build there new stadium and dont make the same mistakes!

  • Comment number 74.

    " with grasses selected from 250 different varieties with up to 200,000 leaf blades in every square metre"

    there is your problem right there. One pitch one grass.

  • Comment number 75.

    64. At 10:46am on 13 Apr 2010, peter wrote:
    I am the Grounds Manager at The Hurlingham Club in Fulham, SW London.

    I have worked in the turf care industry for over 35 years and managed most turf surfaces including football.

    I have followed with great interest and not inconsiderable frustration the ongoing saga of the pitch problems at Wembley. In 2005 I wrote a large piece for a trade magazine complaining bitterly about the salary being offered to the Wembley Grounds Manager. The salary was 35k, and put this in comparison, a salary of 35k was also being offered for the position of box office manager.
    So the role of managing one of the worlds most famous sporting venues inspected in meticulous detail by millions of grass "experts" and used by sports players worth millions of pounds, deserves no more remuneration than the person who oversees the selling of tickets.
    Ultimately though, that gesture says it all. Rather than spend an appropriate percentage of the £700,000,000 on the very reason Wembley is where it is, the FOOTBALL pitch, the stadium was built to look nice and from the outside and make money on the inside.
    If you want to see a magnificent architecturally and functionally superb stadium with a playing surface fit for the national stadium, just visit the emirates. And who did they involve in the stadium design from day guessed it the Grounds Manager.


    Very succinctly put! Enough said on the matter I think.

  • Comment number 76.

    Its a total Farce that Wembley, who make enough money and the FA cannot get a football pitch right when other Premiership clubs around the country can. There is no excuse. I mean especially when they make it worse by continually watering it.


  • Comment number 77.

    " with grasses selected from 250 different varieties with up to 200,000 leaf blades in every square metre"

    "there is your problem right there. One pitch one grass"

    Not likely. The Ryegrass cultivars will be selected form the top 20 in the STRI list and a three way mix at least is necessary for wear tolerances and visual merit.

    I feel the largest problem is the continual turfing of the pitch. I'm fairly certain all premier league pitches are grown from grass seed which enables the root structure to develop naturally along with the grass plants. Also most premeier league clubs have the Desso grass master system (as will the 2010 world cup pitches) which incorporates artificial strands wthin the sward composition to promote stability.

    Unfortunately there is not enough pitch down time to achieve this (say 8-10) due to the heavy corporate schedule which is required to raise revenue to pay for the stadium. Its easy to lay the blame at the feet of the ground staff...but they can only work within FA restrictions. As with most things in football all comes back down to money :o(

  • Comment number 78.

    I watched the Chelsea-Villa match and I was amazed when the commentators said that the pitch was watered in between warm up and the start of the match ..... why ?

    No wonder everyone was falling about like the Keystone Cops !

  • Comment number 79.

    Tom Smith.

    If only managing turf was that easy.
    If you have a spare day I'll fill you in on the plethora of reasons why Wembley's pitch is so poor. In a list of 100 reasons over watering would appear well below half-way.

  • Comment number 80.

    For those people blaming the groundsman its worth reading the article more carefully (Steve Welch made his concerns very clear from the outset but was not heeded). It is also worth digging a bit deeper:

    Steve Welch was dismissed/let go - whatever you want to call it - because he was head groundsman for the Wembley surface and the surface was appalling. However, this was despite the FA acknowledging the difficulty of his task because of the unique problems posed by the pitch. In reality, it would be better to say the task was impossible - it would not have been if the FA had taken notice of Welch's recommendations - and those in the know accept this.

    I thought to myself that Wembley must be the pinnacle of an English groundsman's career and how strange it was that Welch has lost his job - arguably through no fault of his own - and yet has remained so silent about such a contentious issue, when instead he could easily have defended himself and his reputation.

    A quote in The Times today from Welch suggests that there is more to it. When asked about the state of the pitch for the semi-finals he replied, "I could make a comment, but I won't because it is what I agreed."


    1 - FA unveils shiny new stadium
    2 - It becomes obvious the pitch is absolutely rubbish
    3 - It becomes even more obvious, players and managers start to complain and there is much criticism in the media
    4 - The FA realise that they need to be seen to be doing something but can't do anything about the pitch because its too late.
    5 - They decide to get rid of the guy looking after the pitch. They know its not his fault but at least it makes them look like they're dealing with the problem.
    6 - They know that they'd be in trouble if the guy they're getting rid of were to tell the whole story of the pitch so an agreement is made where he is well rewarded for keeping quiet.
    7 - When asked about the Wembley pitch, the guys says: "I could make a comment, but I won't because it is what I agreed."

    I wonder how likely people think this scenario is?

  • Comment number 81.

    While there is obviously a problem with the pitch, isn't it incumbent upon the players to wear boots that ensure that they don't fall over? What's the point in having boots that give you a good feel for the ball, but mean that you can't stand up?

  • Comment number 82.

    I'm not an expert on grass but have a suggestion: Each year there is a groundsman of the year award, I believe that, with a few exceptions, this award normally goes to the head groundsman at the Emirates / Highbury. So maybe ask Arsenal how to do it? The alternative is to take football away from Wembley and just hold all the other events there. England could then have 3 home grounds at the Emirates / Eastlands / Villa Park for example. Cup finals and play offs could go back to Cardiff.

  • Comment number 83.

    The FA are wasting the money we people give to them. FA should learn to spend more money of the relaying the grass. There are lots of variety of grasses to choose from. From my view only use Wembley Stadium for only Football Matches! Rugby sports and other sports damage the pitch a lot.

    FA should learn from the Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, Arsenal's pitch is one of the best in the England. Wembley Stadium should be the best pitch in England, but instead it is the worst pitch in England! The 20 Premier league teams have better pitches than Wembley!

    Wembley sums up England, aim: high prices but poor quality!
    and get loads of money that gets wasted!

  • Comment number 84.

    All the varying criticisms of the Football Association contained above are absolutely correct. They know Nothing, they are Totally Incompetant and Unworthy of Administering our National game. The idiots sat around a table to design a racehorse and inevitably finished up with a Camel ! Don't be surprised if, prior to the Cup Final, they remove the turf, bring in heavy road rollers and compact the soil, then give it a good old spray with Dulux Buckingham Green paint. Exaggeration ? NO, thats how stupid they are. The one approach they cannot take this year which is the correct one, is to replace immediately two feet of the sub structure, install new drains and seed it, not placing a carpet slipper on it until October.

    From Referee's to the use of technology to playing surfaces, wherever you look they are incompetant, couldn't run a Church Concert.

  • Comment number 85.

    It's a shame that at the 'shrine' of English football the game is played on green porridge.

  • Comment number 86.

    Badger wrote:

    While there is obviously a problem with the pitch, isn't it incumbent upon the players to wear boots that ensure that they don't fall over? What's the point in having boots that give you a good feel for the ball, but mean that you can't stand up?
    if the pitch is coming apart underneath you when running, not much your boots can do

  • Comment number 87.

    @ Ian ( #82). Not a bad idea, but the FA aren't going to take football away from Wembley as they own Wembley. If Wembley was leased by the FA, they'd probably consider taking football away from there.

    Just out of interest,why did you pick COMS rather than Old Trafford for the North West "home" of football?

  • Comment number 88.

    they could do worse than reforming the Ground Force team. they used to lay a lovely lawn. Bet they could do the whole thing in 2 days, too!

  • Comment number 89.

    The pitch prior to the kick-off for the Chelsea-Villa game looked fantastic, then I thought to myself, will it be like the rest and cut up again? Sure enough it did and it certainly wasn't any better the following day. I'm sure that it must have something to do with the architecture of the stadium itself. Hasn't the Amsterdam Arena had the same problems throughout the years and I remember the San Siro after Italia 90 also having the same problem - I'm no expert, but if it is the architecture, maybe not letting in enough sun light, or otherwise, shouldn't the FA had learnt, or was it a case of that looks good, get on with it?

    No doubt the pitch will be re-laid once again, but I can't see it getting any better in the foreseeable future for the FA Cup Final and beyond. I mean if the pitch has been re-laid ten times already, it's not going to look and play like a carpet overnight no matter what the FA say or do, however, they need to sort it out, especially if they want the World Cup to come to England. Imagine a World Cup final with England losing because of a slip in the box ala Michael Dawson?

  • Comment number 90.

    That pitch needs time!

    Move all the England internationals to the midlands for a full season. Give that Wembley pitch a year to settle it's grass roots into the soil.
    And make sure you sack that consultancy firm.

    If there ever was a waste of money, it is consultants!

  • Comment number 91.

    The floodlights at the MCG have the ability to adapt to UV lamps. As they provide less illumination than the halide lamps utilised during matches (AFL is hilarious), they are switched on during the evening, to promote growth. This helps to maintain the integrity of the pitch (the wicket can also be removed and stored for the following cricket season). Only costs $1 millon per year. Petty cash to the English FA.

  • Comment number 92.

    The problem is clearly the basic stadium design - like the man said, it's like trying to grow grass in a shoebox.

    Personally I like it.

    Such a fitting metaphor for England's global status in the 21st century!

  • Comment number 93.

    I was at the Tottenham v Portsmouth semi final and was disappointed with the condition of the pitch. One end of the pitch was in sunlight for the whole game, whilst the other end was in shade for the whole game. Players were unable to trust the pitch, which directly affected the pace and quality of the game. The teams trainers were called into action regularly, and I was surprised there no apparent serious injuries to the players as a result of the poor state of the pitch. Mr Capello must be seriously concerned with the Mexico game looming.
    One further point, why was that ridiculous penalty shoot competition allowed to go ahead IN THE GOALMOUTH in front of the West Stand at half time? The same goalmouth that eventually saw Michael Dawson lose his footing and hand the victory to Portsmouth.

  • Comment number 94.

    To be fair to Wembley, it's not the only modern stadium that suffers from this problem. The Millennium Stadium has had its share of woeful pitches in the last decade and the Stade de France has suffered too. The France vs. Italy 6 Nations match this year was marred by an abysmal pitch that made scrummaging impossible. Chelsea and Wigan have also struggled to maintain high quality football pitches all year round.

    That said, if the FA can't get some helpful advice from the people at Arsenal who seem to know how to create a decent pitch, perhaps they should ask the MCC? The drainage at Lord's is spectacular since they invested heavily in a new playing surface. Even the most torrential downpours only result in the briefest stoppages in play.

  • Comment number 95.

    And, to be fair, it's not even all that as a stadium!


    They should have built it twice as big with lasers firing onto the moon and hover ports gliding round the outside. Keep the arch too.

  • Comment number 96.

    Ask yrself this. How long did the Milenium stadium in Wales take to build and how long did wembley take -I suggest wembley was almost twice as long. This and the state of the pitch is about poweful interests, profit making and a national body (the FA) weakened by its connections with big business. The pitch is a disgrace because the sub-soil was done on the cheap with not enough drainage. It is like having a shiny new kitchen when yr oven doesnt work.

  • Comment number 97.

    This is what happens when you build a multi-purpose stadium and market it as a footballing ground. So many compromises in design that makes the pitch non-functional while the concrete base surely was good for holding concerts, motorcross, or whatever the FA allows Wembley to host in order to recoup the cash.

    The FA should stop wasting money hiring more consultants when the problem is architectural - fix the concrete base/drainage problems or the pitch will continue to be poor even if the best grass in the world is laid.

  • Comment number 98.

    I wonder what would be the financial effect to stadium's owners of going for a complete summer (i.e. May-September) without ANY events on the surface at all. This would allow the pitch to be seeded properly, as many people have recommended. Surely the overall cost of this would be less than the continual lifting / laying of turf at 100k per shot!
    At least if someone bit the bullet and considered / investigated the concept, we would have some logical idea of when, if ever, we will see the stadium achieving what it was (officially) designed for - world class football matches.

  • Comment number 99.

    The stadium design was flawed from the start. Yes, it's not quite unique in how imposing it is - although I'm pretty sure it does have the largest footprint of any stadium in the country, I don't know how its height compares to Camp Nou, the Bernabau, the MCG and other mega-stadia around the world. However, none of these stadia are built at 51 degrees north. We're nearer the North Pole than the Equator, and famed for often miserable weather. How are we meant to grow turf in that environment with the British climate?

    Ironically, another stadium built by the same architects - the Cowboys Stadium in Texas - has a design more suited to Wembley. It has a large glass opening to (I think) the south side (which can be filled with temporary seating for the biggest events - which for this venue is a Super Bowl, and for Wembley would be the FA Cup/CL/WC finals and important England home games) that allows light to come in. (They also have a proper retractable roof, rather than the bizarre movable-roof system at Wembley which supposedly controls the amount of sunlight that goes onto the pitch - presumably between 'none' and 'very little'.)

    Something similar should have been done at Wembley - it would not have been at all 'wrong' to have a slightly discontinuous shape to the ground (and it would have been suited to incorporating a stage area for concerts) even though the old Wembley was known as a bowl-shaped stadium. If you had to rebuild from scratch - and you probably didn't - you had to get it right.

    By the way, the same problem would have arisen with this design in the Midlands, but a little bit worse. Although there's a very good point regarding nationwide access, especially as it may have hastened the construction of High Speed 2.

  • Comment number 100.

    This stadium wasn't built for football, merely an entertainment facility that could entertain the idea of hosting a football match, you only need look at how many corporate clients are present every time any type of event is hosted. The original Wembley was designed for football and athletics alone, (granted the odd music concert and other sports event)

    This new Wembley just seems to be another "dynamic entertainment facility" that ensures to provide more than just football. The pitch is starved of the attention it is deserved because so many other things are going on there.


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