Sport S'pore to Sports Hub: Deliver or we won't pay

Sport S'pore to Sports Hub: Deliver or we won't pay

The bad state of the National Stadium pitch has prompted Sport Singapore, the country's sports agency, to consider holding back payment to the SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) for not delivering a top-notch playing surface.

In a strongly-worded statement released last night, after Brazil beat Japan 4-0 in an international football friendly on a sandy and patchy Kallang turf, Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin said: "We cannot be paying for what has not been delivered.

"The pitch remains one of the key deliverables that SHPL has yet to fulfil, in spite of promises and assurances given in the past to the Government and the public."

The state of the pitch has put Singapore's co-hosting of the AFF Suzuki Cup, which is scheduled to kick off at the National Stadium on Nov 23, in doubt.

Under the agreed public-private partnership (PPP) scheme, SHPL will bear the cost of constructing and operating the $1.33 billion Sports Hub. The Government did not pay anything upfront, but is making annual payments to SHPL over 25 years.

The first was in August 2010 when construction started.

Pointing out that the poor state of the field had been an issue since August, Lim urged SHPL to address the pitch problem "decisively".

He added: "The great pity was the sub-standard readiness of the pitch which, while playable, was far from being satisfactory for an international match at any level befitting of our new National Stadium.

"Sport Singapore will hold SHPL accountable for the outcomes of their next actions."

Responding, Sports Hub chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik said: "It's pointless for us to get into a war of words with SportSG. We are partners... so we should be working together for the good of Singapore sport. We have been very honest about the state of the pitch.

We want it to be better and we will fix it. We've gathered very, very positive feedback from all stakeholders, from consumers to partners such as the police, for tonight's event. We will build on this for future events."

With the ball bobbling on the uneven surface and both sets of players kicking up puffs of sand, Brazil national football coach Dunga was left unimpressed.

He blasted the surface during the post-match media conference: "It was quite a bad pitch but we had to play anyway. If it was better, the game would have been more beautiful."

On the Internet, the turf was also the butt of jokes as the Twitter hashtag #yourpitchissosandy was started and memes were created to mock the bad state of the pitch.

An AFF delegation watched the match. After inspecting the pitch, it will announce today if the tournament will still go ahead or be moved to an alternative venue.

This article was first published on October 15, 2014.
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