Stadium sand is fine, but could SMRT face fine?

Stadium sand is fine, but could SMRT face fine?

Even as Anglo Chinese School (Independent) was slugging it out on the rugby pitch with their old foe, St Andrew's Secondary School, another battle was brewing behind the scenes.

SMRT had allowed ACS(I) to charter five trains to take their students and staff from One North station, a short walk from the school, to the new National Stadium where the match was held. (See report on facing page.)

But the transport company failed to get the regulators' permission first.

Yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it is looking into taking action against SMRT for failing to seek the necessary approval from the authorities.

LTA said under its licence to operate the Circle Line, SMRT must obtain approval if it wishes to provide train services that are not open to the public.

The spokesman said: "In this case, SMRT did not seek our approval before agreeing to provide the service.

"We are looking into the appropriate action to take. We have also reminded SMRT that its primary focus must be to ensure good service delivery to the commuting public at large."

SMRT had earlier said it had ensured the arrangement with ACS(I) would not impact its regular service.

There was happier news on the pitch with the school regaining their title with a 28-8 scoreline in the National Schools C division yesterday.

In the first half, ACS(I) kept the pressure by dominating in St Andrew's side of the field.

Yet, the very pitch, which saw many tackles and sidestepped sprints, had in the last two weeks been a target of criticism.

The main issue? The pitch was too sandy.

Vice-president of the Singapore Rugby Union, Mr Jonathan Leow, said the pitch was much improved for the school finals.

Said Mr Leow: "There were no issues of players slipping and sliding. The field held well (during the match). For rugby, it's important that players have a stable platform. Or else you'll get complaints of twisted ankles."

Mr Leow added that he was not aware of any ankle injuries yesterday.

Similarly, Mr Nick Dance, St Andrew's Secondary School's rugby head coach, said the pitch felt better than when he had played on it in the Rugby World Club 10s in June.

Previous media reports stated that rugby players had complained about the same problem.

Said Mr Dance: "My concern was that too much sand could affect a ball's characteristics on the field. But luckily, the conditions were not a problem for our boys. "They were too glad to play on the softer National Stadium pitch than on a harder surface. "

Nevertheless, ACS felt the sting when St Andrew's went on the attack in the second half.

ACS' Mohammad-Mikha Khaleel said: "(It was) definitely a challenge with all the sand in our eyes. But it opens us to play in new circumstances."

While issues of safety may arise due to a less than ideal pitch, one father, who came to support his son's team, was not too worried.

Said Mr Vincent Yeow, 50, whose son Tristan, 14, had scored the first try for ACS: "I play rugby too, and I have broken seven fingers, cracked three ribs and torn two hamstrings.

"The pitch may not be perfect, but what's the big deal? Rugby builds character and toughens you up."

GIVE IT TIME

After the match, Mr Leow pointed out that new grass can be seen growing on previously patchy areas.

He said: "All you need is to give it time to grow."

And once the pitch is allowed to "settle and stabilise", conditions will get even better, said a spokesman for the Singapore Sports Hub.

Said communications manager Sam Eatwell: "It's a work in progress. We're learning each time how to improve the surface of the pitch.

"We are hopeful that in six weeks' time, we can get it to an optimum level for the Brazil versus Japan friendly."

The international friendly will be played on Oct 14.

In the meantime, no sporting activities will be conducted on the field.


This article was first published on August 27, 2014.
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