Football: Singapore shifts events to protect pitch for Suzuki Cup

Football: Singapore shifts events to protect pitch for Suzuki Cup

SINGAPORE - Proprietors of Singapore's much-maligned National Stadium have bumped a concert in an attempt to assure concerned organisers that they will have a pitch up to the standards for next month's Suzuki Cup.

Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou's Nov 8 performance will be moved to a week after the conclusion of the Nov 22-Dec 20 Southeast Asian football championships amid fears that covering the pitch for the concert would kill the grass.

"As we now begin to look forward to the AFF Suzuki Cup next month, we have had to make some difficult decisions to ensure this regional competition has the best chance for success with regards to the quality of the National Stadium pitch," Sports Hub chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik said in a statement.

Tournament organisers, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF), said they would decide on Wednesday whether or not to move the eight-team tournament, to be co-hosted with Vietnam, or switch venues to Singapore's much smaller 5,000 seat Jalan Besar stadium on an artificial pitch.

The National Stadium surface was heavily criticised again this week as Brazil beat Japan 4-0 in a friendly on Tuesday on a surface the Singapore Football Association deemed far short of international standards.

The AFF want the stadium - the centrepiece of a US$1 billion (S$1.28 billion) Sports Hub also featuring an aquatics centre and indoor stadium - to be empty for a minimum of 15 working days prior to their event.

That puts into doubt the New Zealand Maori's non-cap rugby match against the invitational Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore on Nov. 15.

A second concert featuring Grammy award winning artist Mariah Carey will go ahead on Friday but with a rearranged stage and set up to better protect the sandy pitch, made of natural grass reinforced with artificial fibre inserts.

The pitch only had two weeks to bed in May as appose to the normal six-month period leaving it struggling to cope with the number of events and constant covering for concerts and amateur runs. Many are unhappy with the poor spectacle which threatens to hinder Singapore's bid to become a sporting capital.

Sport Singapore, a statutory board of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, threatened to withhold funds for Sports Hub if the pitch problems continued to embarrass.

"We cannot be paying for what has not been delivered," it said shortly after Tuesday's fulltime whistle.

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