Home affairs minister promises to tackle poor state of Hong Kong Stadium

United manager Moyes refuses to get involved in any mud-slinging as home affairs secretary issues an apology for poor playing surface

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 September, 2015, 11:43pm

Manchester United boss David Moyes played down the poor condition of the pitch at Hong Kong Stadium last night as his side claimed victory over Kitchee.

But the home affairs minister apologised earlier for the sub-standard surface and promised a review to tackle the problem.

The pitch did not appear to cause any concerns for the two teams, with the English Premier League champions comfortably running out 5-2 winners.

Moyes said: "I thought our players played very well on a difficult pitch and made it look like a good pitch.

"I thought we played well … it was a good and an exciting game for the supporters.

"The pitch quality did not matter today. You wouldn't have known if it was a good pitch or bad pitch as I thought Manchester United, especially in the first half, were very good."

Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said the pitch saga would not affect his interest in bringing more overseas teams to Hong Kong.

"The authorities will learn from the incident and improve the pitch quality," he said.

"Indeed the pitch quality has been getting better with the sunshine over the last couple of days and both teams tried very hard today without worrying about the playing surface."

Video: "I thought the pitch quality didn't matter today because I thought we played very well" -David Moyes, Manchester United manager

British media reports before the game referred to a "killer" pitch and fears that United's highly paid stars would put themselves at risk of injury by playing on such a surface.

Tsang Tak-sing, the secretary for home affairs, and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made an unannounced visit to the stadium yesterday.

Tsang said Leung had told him to come up with a "fundamental resolution of the problem" of maintaining the venue.

The stadium would be improved even though a multipurpose sports venue would open at Kai Tak by 2019, Tsang said.

One option is to lay fresh turf, last done 10 years ago. But the pitch has been a problem since a renovation in 1994.

"I do realise people are not happy with the state of our football ground over the weekend. I feel sorry about this," Tsang said.

The government said its overseas consultant, from New Zealand, had advised them to improve the aeration and drainage of the soil - as well as try out a new type of Bermuda grass that would better suit the stadium.

The consultant was hired after the government learned of the matches this year, according to Olivia Chan Yeuk-oi, an assistant director of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department which runs the stadium.

Tsang blamed an intensive schedule of five matches in a week - four in the Barclays Asia Trophy that ended on Saturday and the game last night - and heavy rain for the poor pitch.

Chan said they would liaise with organisers of future events to avoid such busy scheduling.

But she refused to say if the department should be held responsible for allowing so many matches, saying the arrangement was a compromise with the organiser to bring top teams to the city. The department spends HK$6.7 million a year on overall stadium maintenance.

Brian Leung Hung-tak, chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association, said he was not worried about top soccer teams choosing to play in rival cities.

Veteran turf specialist Dr Eric Lee Yin-tse called for an independent inquiry into the problem and an expert panel to advise the way forward.

Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said it was ready to offer help.