Channel NewsAsia

National Stadium pitch ready to roll

Sports Hub says it is confident that the pitch's reseeded surface is good enough to meet FIFA standards.

SINGAPORE: When Bernd Stange’s Singapore Selection step onto the National Stadium pitch on Saturday to face Italian giants Juventus, they can be assured the playing surface will comply with FIFA’s guidelines.

That is the assessment of Mr Greg Gillin, Singapore Sports Hub senior director of stadia, who told TODAY an audit conducted last week showed it met the minimum standards set by football’s world governing body.

The grass is only four weeks old as it had to be reseeded after the July 5 Stefanie Sun concert. Terraplas covers were used to protect the pitch during the event. But nurturing the grass in the past month was not glitch-free. A fault in the sprinkling system 11 days ago dispensed too much water and created holes in a number of areas of the pitch. While the sprinkler problem has been rectified and the pitch repaired, one or two “scars” will still be visible on the field.

For Mr Gillin, this is part and parcel of fine-tuning the systems in place for a new stadium and he said the issues are minor and not a hindrance to top quality football being played.

“We did an audit last week and I was comfortable it hit all the international benchmarks for safety, traction, hardness and ball bounce – all the things FIFA rates pitches on,” said Mr Gillin, who previously headed the maintenance and operations of Wembley Stadium. “In actual fact, we use the Institute of Groundsmanship performance standards out of the United Kingdom, which all of the pitches in the UK are audited on, and it was right at the bottom level of the elite standard. That was where we expected to be, for a pitch that was three-and-a-half weeks old when we did the audit. I’ll do another audit tomorrow and I have no doubt it will sit well up within the international elite standard.”

The ideal playing surface for a match, he added, is six weeks after reseeding when the grass blades are then trimmed to a height of between 22mm to 24mm. As the National Stadium pitch will be just over four weeks old for the Juventus match, it will be kept longer, about 30mm. But the grass will not be trimmed until Juventus and the Singapore Selection complete about eight hours of training on it to prepare for their match-up.

Mr Gillin said the strength of the field is in the Desso system, which has artificial fibres weaved into the grass, and he is extremely confident it is robust enough to provide a good playing surface. He said the system is ideal for the National Stadium as it is expected to host a range of activities all year round, unlike football stadiums in Europe.

It will also hold up to a more punishing regime when Singapore hosts three matches over six days during the group stages of the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup from Nov 23 to Nov 29. Wembley Stadium, which also has the same Desso system, went through the same routine when it hosted football matches during the 2012 Olympic Games, he pointed out. If the pitch is allowed to mature uninterrupted for six weeks, it will be more than robust enough to host a tournament such as the Suzuki Cup.

“Not a major issue. On this surface for the Olympic Games, Wembley had nine matches over 11 days,” he added.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia