Scudamore brushes off Hong Kong pitch fiasco

Poor playing surface 'will not affect city's chances of hosting more BAT tournaments'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:34pm

The awful condition of the Hong Kong Stadium pitch will not affect the city's future chances of hosting the Barclays Asia Trophy (BAT), English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore assured fans yesterday.

Scudamore said the stadium was a good venue with good services and the rainy weather that threw arrangements into disarray before the start of the matches on Wednesday was an unfortunate factor over which there was little control.

When you come to Asia at this time of the year, there is a weather risk, but we play football in very bad weather in England too
English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore

"It doesn't have any effect on future decisions at all," said Scudamore. "When you come to Asia at this time of the year, there is a weather risk, but we play football in very bad weather in England too. I can find you video from last season of games played in the Premier League and the Champions League where there were very similar conditions.

"We have had six Asia Trophy tournaments so far, three in Hong Kong. All I can say is the fans are a big part of the decision [to stage the tournament here] and Hong Kong has got a lot going for it in terms of the match atmosphere. But we will not make a decision [on the venue for the 2015 event] until next year as the event is held every two years."

Nearly 36,000 fans braved the torrential rain to attend the matches on Wednesday night, which saw Sunderland upstage Tottenham 3-1 and Manchester City beat South China 1-0, while tomorrow's final is already a sell-out at the 40,000-seat venue.

Scudamore also defended the decision to give the go-ahead for the matches to be played on the waterlogged pitch, saying they had taken safety as their top priority.

"It [the pitch] was less than ideal and I can't deny that," he said. "But there were almost 40000 fans there wanting to watch the matches and the referee called it and decided it was safe. Therefore the games went ahead. At the end of the day it was about safety and at no time on Wednesday night was that pitch unsafe. It might not have been ideal, it might not have been pristine sometimes as we like to play, but it was perfectly playable."

Scudamore said he understood the criticisms of the pitch made by Spurs team manager Andre Villa-Boas at the post-match conference.

"He had just come off after they had lost 3-1 against Sunderland and he is entitled to his opinion. When people lose matches, they are disappointed."

The organisers, meanwhile, are keeping their fingers crossed for tomorrow's final, hoping the pitch condition will not deteriorate further amid a forecast for more rain.

An emergency meeting was held yesterday among various parties including the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs the stadium, the Hong Kong Football Association and the Premier League.

"The focus was on what needs to be done to make sure the matches go ahead on Saturday," said Mark Sutcliffe, HKFA chief executive. "An action plan was agreed by all parties and remedial work is already under way. The situation will be monitored regularly between now and Saturday."

The LCSD said mitigatory measures including more extensive hand-forking of the soil and top-dressing work had been carried out to minimise the impact of the heavy rain on the turf. They also deployed additional manpower and materials for the task.