Too Many Concerts

The playing surface at Wembley Stadium is getting even more flak and many experts reckon it’s all thanks to the number of concerts and special events there.

“The stadium is used as a multi-function venue, and so you will have a multi-function pitch,” Everton soccer club groundsman Bob Lennon told the Daily Telegraph, after both of the FA Cup semi-finals had been spoiled by a treacherously slippery surface that soon broke up.

“Everybody expects the pitch to be perfect, even though it also stages rugby league, motor racing and American football, along with concerts,” said Dave Saltman, formerly head groundsman at Cardiff Millennium Stadium.

A year ago Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger were both vehemently critical of the pitch after their sides lost FA Cup semi-finals on it.

The pitch was changed at the end of April 2009 at a cost of about £90,000. It was the fifth time it had been replaced since the £800 million stadium opened in 2007.

Wembley is restricted in its playing-surface options because servicing debt and covering running costs means added revenue from concerts and other attractions is necessary.

The 2008 summer schedule included concerts by U2, Coldplay, Oasis, AC/DC, and Take That, while the national soccer side played home matches against Andorra, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia and Belarus.

In three years the pitch has been changed 10 times at a total cost of £1.25 million. The Football Association and Wembley National Stadium Ltd. appear to have accepted it will need to be re-laid every three months.

Following the pitch criticism after this year’s FA Cup semi-finals, which many papers described as “a fiasco,” the next new surface is expected to be installed April 20, after the rugby union match between Harlequins and Saracens.

Wenger, who has described the Wembley surface as “unacceptable,” says he’s concerned the state of the pitch may potentially impact England’s bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.