'Lay and play'

'Lay and play'

Italian champions Juventus did not risk their star striker Carlos Tevez on it.

Chelsea's Brazilian fullback Filipe Luis labelled it "horrible".

Now, just over four months after the new National Stadium hosted its first football match on Aug 16, its problematic pitch will be replaced.

SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) yesterday announced it has decided on a "lay-and-play" solution to replace the current pitch with an all-natural pitch, which will be developed and maintained in a nursery with local conditions.

A second natural pitch, with a larger surface area, will also be developed and rolled out for sports that require a larger surface, such as cricket.

The second surface can also be used to replace the first when it eventually becomes worn out by excessive wear and tear.

The current pitch uses the Desso Grassmaster system of natural and synthetic grass, and is similar to the turf found at world-renowned stadia such as Wembley and Old Trafford.

SHPL chief executive officer Philippe Collin Delavaud said: "The current pitch had taken some time to stabilise. It is now a playable pitch, as seen in the recent AFF Suzuki Cup.

"But our experience shows, while the grass is able to grow quickly, it takes a long time to anchor and sink roots.

"Consequently, the pitch is not robust enough for multi-purpose and intensive use.

"Hence, SHPL has decided to grow a natural pitch in a nursery familiar with local conditions. This will provide the ideal grass growth conditions for the grass to mature.

"This mature natural turf will then be transported to and laid in the National Stadium in time for the SEA Games in June next year.

COST BORNE BY SHPL

"The natural turf will also support the National Stadium's multi-purpose calendar of events both before and after the SEA Games."

Delavaud added that the cost of implementing the new turf solution is fully borne by SHPL and will not be passed down to spectators and promoters.

It has been a turbulent four months for SHPL, the consortium in charge of the Sports Hub.

There were loud complaints from the Juventus team and the public when the Italian side took on a Singapore Selection side in August, as swathes of sandy patches were clearly visible on the pitch.

When Brazil beat Japan 4-0 on the same pitch on Oct 14, the Football Association of Singapore declared the hybrid surface "far short of the expected international playing standards". To stimulate the growth of grass, SHPL purchased $1.5 million worth of special lighting equipment.

The lights, hovering slightly over a metre above ground, are kept on through the night to act like sunlight.

Substantial costs were also incurred as events were rescheduled or cancelled, to ensure the pitch was free to grow.

At last month's AFF Suzuki Cup, co-hosts Singapore were forced to move all but their matches to the Jalan Besar Stadium, and all four teams in the Lions' groups were not allowed to train on the National Stadium pitch.

That's Sports Hub's solution to replacing National Stadium pitch with an all-natural layout.


This article was first published on December 21, 2014.
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