Sports Hub acts for Suzuki Cup's sake

Sports Hub acts for Suzuki Cup's sake
Workers tending to the pitch at the National Stadium. The condition of the grass has come under fire with the Suzuki Cup looming.

In a surprise move that will be welcomed by football fans here and across the region, Singapore Sports Hub Pte Ltd announced changes to its events calendar to give the National Stadium pitch as much time as possible to improve for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.

The Desso pitch at the National Stadium, the 55,000-seater centrepiece of the $1.33 billion Sports Hub - has yet to flourish, with sandy patches still visible when Neymar's Brazil beat Japan 4-1 in an international friendly on Tuesday.

And the Sports Hub consortium has taken "difficult decisions" to optimise pitch recovery, and provide the best possible surface when the Lions set out to defend the title they won in 2012 at the Nov 22 to Dec 20 tournament .

The Mariah Carey concert scheduled for Oct 24 will still take place, but with a reconfiguration of the stage set-up.

The stage will be repositioned, off the pitch at the East quadrant (the West quadrant is the open side of the stadium facing the Singapore skyline).

Originally planned for Nov 8, the Jay Chou concert will now be postponed to Dec 27.

Affected patrons for both events can request for refunds.

The Sports Hub has also made a move to reschedule the rugby match between the Maori All-Blacks and the Asia Pacific Dragons originally set for Nov 15.

"We have already communicated to the rugby promoters (Carinet) and all the options are being considered. But they have indicated they will only be able to get back to us next week," said Sports Hub chief operating officer, Oon Jin Teik (above) last night.

The AFF has strict guidelines on the usage of venues for the Suzuki Cup before the tournament, insisting stadiums should not be used for any other matches or events a minimum of 15 working days before the opening day.

"This facility is a sports, entertainment and lifestyle hub. Four months into operations, we have delivered in some areas, and failed to deliver on some of the products. We have said so, we have admitted our mistakes," added Oon.

EFFORT

"We are prepared to do what we have to do to get it right."

While the moves will come at a cost to the Sports Hub, AFF general secretary Azzudin Ahmad believes the initiatives will help the tournament be successful.

He said: "This is very welcoming news for all football fans from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, and good for Singapore's image as it hosts a premier regional tournament."

Singapore, co-hosts along with Vietnam, will stage Group B matches featuring Thailand, Malaysia, the winners of the on-going qualifying tournament, along with their very own Lions.

"We have been looking at all possibilities to ensure that the event is still held in Singapore - that was our main aim, driven by ASEAN solidarity," added Azzudin, who revealed that AFF officials will "assist in any way possible to support Singapore's efforts to create a win-win situation."

"We didn't want to make any major decisions that will affect Singapore negatively."

The 7,500-capacity Jalan Besar has been put forward as a second venue for the tournament, just in case.

"We put across many options at the meeting. We want to do what's right for the tournament and what's right for the pitch. (But) we want to host the AFF Suzuki Cup and we are in discussions to come up with the right solution," said Oon.

The Sports Hub has already installed a $1.5 million special lighting system to fuel grass growth on the heavily criticised pitch, and Oon insists that they are pulling out all the stops to put on a good show.

"We want to do the right thing and we are determined to get it right," he said.

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 18, 2014.
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