Grass in the Hong Kong Stadium should not be replaced with artificial turf, a local turf expert has said amid complaints of the poor quality of grass plaguing the city's top sporting venue.
"Players will get more seriously hurt on synthetic grass. It's also environmentally unfriendly," said Dr Eric Lee Yin-tse, turf expert and honorary senior research fellow at the Chinese University's School of Life Sciences.
Lee, who has designed sports pitches and racecourses for Hong Kong and Singapore, said studies showed that the temperature of plastic grass was at least 10 degrees Celsius higher than the air temperature.
The artificial turf, which usually lasts for about five years, required prolonged irrigation to cool it, and the rubber layer of the synthetic grass also contained heavy metals, he said.
Lee's comments came as internet users called for the pitch in Hong Kong Stadium to be replaced with artificial turf after the poor-quality appearance of the stadium's natural grass was broadcast internationally during Saturday's soccer match.
The online call coincided with the government's plan to replace natural grass on the city's pitches with synthetic grass. It would help cut maintenance costs and accommodate the growing demand for training grounds, the government said.
But Lee said: "This should not be the solution. Natural grass pitches can be easily maintained and open longer for use if the government improves its skills and management methods."
The pitch at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po has been at the centre of controversy since it was redeveloped in 1994 for a hefty HK$850 million. The turf caused injuries to players and became loose under the stress of soccer and rugby games.
The issue led to the early termination of the operator Wembley International (HK)'s 10-year contract in 1998. The contract was to have ended in 2004.
After the contract was terminated, the turf was replaced, but the problem did not go away. It has been said that the arena had design and construction defects in the first place.
It is uncertain whether the same problem will arise at the new sports complex to be built in Kai Tak by 2019. The complex will have a 50,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof.