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  • Dec 21, 2014
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Barclays Asia Trophy 2013

The Barclays Asia Trophy was played in Hong Kong from July 24 to 27 and saw Sunderland, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and South China compete. Manchester City were the winners, beating Sunderland 1–0 in the final. The tournament was dogged by issues with Hong Kong Stadium's waterlogged pitch, which was blamed for an ankle injury sustained by Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen.

NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong Stadium mudbath blamed on poor management

Turf expert says pitch drainage system may have been blocked by the use of cheap sand as Manchester United cancel training session

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:37pm

Poor management has been blamed for the waterlogged pitch that has turned the city's top sports arena into an international laughing stock.

Manchester United called off an open training session at Hong Kong Stadium last night ahead of tonight's match against local champions Kitchee.

And there were even fears fans may be denied the chance to see the English Premier League Champions due to the appalling state of the playing surface.

Dryer weather expected today, however, will hopefully ease concerns.

Hong Kong Stadium manager Wong Ying-ming admitted that there had not been enough time to sieve the sand provided by the contractor and separate impurities, such as pebbles and shells.

He added that a large quantity of sand was needed to patch up the pitch after the heavy rain.

Stadium staff, assisted by Tottenham Hotspur's groundskeeper, worked to pick out impurities before the Barclays Asia Trophy matches on Saturday. A source close to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the stadium, said about 50 staff were deployed from its contractors to work on the muddy pitch at the weekend.

Dr Eric Lee Yin-tse, a turf specialist involved in football pitch and race course design, believed the drainage system under the stadium's pitch was blocked.

He said the blockage was probably caused by the use of cheap sand usually used in construction and which contains impurities such as shells and pebbles.

"Good sand particles are of similar size. It reduces soil compression. Grass will only grow stronger and denser in well-ventilated soil," he said.

He added that the same problem was causing the deterioration of the pitch at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, where the 2009 East Asian Games were held.

The source added that the local climate was a challenge for the department's consultant from New Zealand, adding: "Hong Kong requires a very different way of handling the turf. Because of the very wet weather, we need to create more holes in the soil to allow better evaporation, in addition to covering the botched pitch with more sand."

A Leisure and Cultural Services department spokesman confirmed its consultant was from New Zealand, but provided no further details.

The government has blamed the weather and the frequency of matches - with two Barclays Asia Trophy matches played on both Wednesday and Saturday - for the state of the pitch.

It led to United's planned training session being moved to the Tseung Kwan O ground yesterday morning. United boss David Moyes said of the playing surface: "I hope it will be OK … players have been brought up playing on different pitches."

He added: "I'm disappointed we could not let more people come in to watch [the training]. We wanted to try to give the pitch an opportunity."

And while there have been worries players could get injured, defender Phil Jones assured supporters: "No matter what's presented to us, we'll be ready and hopefully put on a display."

But the chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association, Brian Leung Hung-tak, said fans might be deprived of the chance to watch Premier League sides in future if the standard of the pitch cannot be assured.

And Kitchee captain Lo Kwan-yee said fans may be left disappointed by tonight's game.

He said: "I believe [United] won't make a full effort in the match as they don't want to be injured. Fans may be disappointed if they only send second-tier players on to the field."

Match organisers are likely to net HK$18 million in receipts, with the government receiving a 20 per cent levy.


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Eric Li might be a Biology Prof grass specialist but what does he know about building sports field bases?
The problem is shown in the article "sand contains pebbles & shells" this is cheap sea sand & 5 times cheaper than graded silica. Sports fields must use dust free graded silica sand. Grass rhizomes & roots penetrate the silica sand bed & create channels & voids down which rain can percolate to the aggregate. Sea sand contains a lot of silt so adding this to the surface blocks drainage & stymies grass growth; bare areas appear that will pond & have to be hollow-tined /forked to release the ponded water . In addition the SoKonPo pitch was built with a Sub-Air system which would suck any fines into the voids & block them.
Stadiums have their own microclimates compared to their surrounds. This stadium has a roof that blocks sunlight so a deep rooted shade tolerant grass is needed. The sand base fails to retain fertilizers & nutrients so grass needs longer to establish &without a dense sod the surface will cut up as lateral forces twisting, cutting and sliding happen. This was already documented in 1994 by Wembley report to HKJC's Halliday shown in the HC trial judgment wherein Wembley defeated HK Govt.
Wembley inherited a flawed pitch from the outset from HKJC who refused to listen to Wembley UK's head groundsman advice.The judge agreed whilst awarding costs.
In UK Saracens have installed a synthetic pitch in their stadium as will Cardiff Blues in Cardiff Arms Park.
Frggin disgrace. Terminate their contracts and trigger the compensation and penalty clauses. If the termination and penalty clauses are missing or inadequate fire the Leisure and Cultural Services Department ashhole who screwed up the contract. Then make sure that asshhole doesn't get to send kids to overseas universities on our tax dollars.
So the management shoot themselves in their own feet....ha...
Hats off to the three writers here - Olga Wong, Johnny Tam and Chan Kin-wa - who finally went into more detail on what really made the pitch unplayable and probably even dangerous. Certainly other stories that focused on the matches being covered did not need to go into such depth on the pitch conditions; however, when future practice sessions are being halted, players are being injured and the reputation of cities' sports facilities are being questioned, it problem would help to not be so vague by simply saying a pitch is unplayable, horrible or a mudbath. Obviously, it appears the organizers and grounds keepers in Hong Kong have some work to do. However, accusations need to be investigated and it appears most of the stories in SCMP on this tournament have settled with printing accusations rather than relying on investigative reporting. At least this article goes into the problem in a more investigative manner. The other stories could have, too; there is no space limitation for online articles, right?
This is not the only example from the Leisure and Cultural Services department. Hong Kong has built a state of the art Skate / BMX park in Po Kong Village road, but gets so little usage because of the paranoid measures imposed on users. First of all, users must undertake an assessment run by the HKCA, then obtain a permit to use the park. Even with the permit, certain areas in the park are off limits, namely the perfect copy of the Bondi Bowl, it is restricted to use by "associations". So far, the injury an accident rate of this park has been zero since opening 2 years ago. But hardly anyone uses or even visits that park.. In my opinion, a big waste of tax payers money.. what a waste, a beautiful state of the art extreme park buried in bureaucracy & its just sitting there baking in the sun.
If the English teams complain too much point them it was Wembley they laud so much that screwed the whole thing up from day 1!
Clearly The Hong Kong Sevens' 70 plus games over a 3 day period is largely to blame for the irreparable state of the pitch.


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