Just How Bad is the Wembley Pitch?

Tottenham v Portsmouth FA Cup Semi Final 2009/10

I was lucky enough this weekend to be able to watch both FA Cup semi finals that took place at Wembley stadium in London from the comfort of my own home. As we know, Chelsea got the better of Aston Villa while Portsmouth went through against Tottenham in a fantastically entertaining and dramatic game.

The final, which takes place on 15 May, will pit the ’08 winner v the ’09 winner with former Chelsea manager Avram Grant now at the helm for Pompey. The final itself has enough sub-plots and story lines to assure an entertaining day. It’ll most likely be 1 v 20 and David v Goliath in a match where everything gets thrown out the window when the opening whistle blows.  

It’s safe to say that on paper, Chelsea should be favorites. However, the way Portsmouth players seem to play with no pressure because of the fact their Premier League fate is now secured, leads me to believe that I would be foolish to write off their chances.

In the aftermath of the semi finals, supporters, managers, pundits and participants on call in shows have yet again lamented the awful playing surface of the national stadium. The state of the Wembley pitch has come into question more times than number of divots one could count on the surface itself. Does the FA think of business and finances first and football second? Is the state of the pitch really that terrible?

In short, Yes – but why?

Over the course of this past weekend’s two matches, multiple players could be seen slipping and losing their footing all afternoon. Portsmouth’s opening goal in added extra time came when Spurs defender Michael Dawson, attempting to mark Portsmouth’s Frederic Piquionne, slipped and fell in the box allowing Piquionne to score the vital opener.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was quoted as saying “The pitch was a disgrace. I’m not using it as an excuse – it was the same for both teams – but for any professional team to have to play football on that is farcical.”

The dreadful surface has even been described as a “skating rink“, wherein players are constantly trying to stay on their feet. Redknapp furthered his disdain for the field by saying, “It’s rock hard and wet on top, it’s impossible to play on”. As bad as the pitch may have been, and although the result didn’t go the way of Tottenham, Spurs were in fact able to “play” on Sunday. Tottenham were the better team moving forward over the course of the afternoon, Spurs just lacked that killer ball in the final third, creating chance after chance, but definitely lacked sharpness in front of goal.

On Saturday’s episode of the BBC 5 Live 606 Football Phone In, a caller brought up the idea of the design of the stadium itself not allowing in enough sun to reach the pitch. Although I’m not an architect or expert in landscape & design, the caller’s point got me thinking of the FA’s priorities. Do they care enough about the state of the national stadium? Are number of tickets sold, expensive chili dogs and matches that in all honesty, shouldn’t even be played at Wembley all they really care about?

Who’s to blame for the pitch, and why won’t it’s woeful state be rightfully addressed? In all honesty, just how bad is the state of the Wembley pitch? Regardless of your opinion, as a fan of the England national team and English football in general, I for one remained embarrassed by the woeful state of the Wembley pitch.

10 thoughts on “Just How Bad is the Wembley Pitch?”

  1. That pitch is a national disgrace. A plastic pitch would have provided a better playing surface than that for those two matches. The ball slid around similar to a plastic pitch. The players slid around. At least a plastic pitch wouldn’t give up so many divots.

    Our first goal was the direct result of the pitch. At least two of the yellow cards were the result of slipping and making contact. Dindane clearly slipped and just barely touched the Spurs player, yet was given a yellow in the first half.

  2. agree with you Atlanta, and im an unhappy Spurs fan!!!! But not making anyexcuses, both teamsplayed on the same turf and Pompey did the business!!!! #:)…good luck to you and i will be supporting Pompeyin the final!!!! I like Chelski too but phuk them this year for the cup! Terry dont deserve phuk all the 6unt!!!! And his old man…whos unemployed , just been done for dealing coke!!?? Where he get the phuqqin money from to deal coke??? you know as well as everyone else where!!!!

    1. Accountants Rule…

      Atlanta, I agree with most of your observations, save the use of astroturf. Experiments with plastic style surfaces have never gone down particularly well with the players in the past but the appalling condition of the pitch is an ongoing embarrassment, having been re-laid 10 times at £100,000 a time according to press reports.

      Given the £800million plus cost of Wembley you would think getting the perfect playing surface would be a given but it is rumoured that the architects did not fully take account of the effects a “micro climate” created in the bowl would have at pitch level. The stadium’s irrigation system does not cope well with a surface high in humidity nor disperse surface water effectively. I have to say this never appeared to be a problem in the old Wembley.

      If you factor in the various non-footballing events where the pitch has either had to be covered, or even removed temporarily it becomes clear that the pitch faces an uphill battle. One commentator has urged the FA to give the pitch up to a year to settle with no games being played on it but that will not happen of course given need to repay the debt. All in all pretty disasterous I’d say!

  3. With the horrible condition of the pitch at Wembley since the new design, doesn’t this put a huge dent into Englands bid for the 2018 World Cup? Assuming that Wembley would the key stadium in their bid hosting the first game & the Cup Final something has to be done to remedy this situation.

    1. Marco..I doubt it would affect England’s bid re 2018. They (the FA/Government etc ) will throw enough money at it because they cannot afford not to.

      BREAKING NEWS…Sky Sports News has just revealed that the professional body of Groundsmen is calling for a public inquiry into the state of the pitch at Wembley

  4. There are a lot of games upcoming on the pitch as well. All the football league playoff finals will be played at Wembley, as well as the FA cup final. And doesn’t England have a friendly or 2 before the WC? Could get ugly.

    1. Next year’s Champion’s League Final is also being played on the “icy” Wembley Pitch. If they don’t fix it before that, they’ll get a bevy of bad press.

  5. happened with the chelsea – villa game too, very slippery pitch. Maybe a thicker layer of dirt and different grass? maybe just notch the undersoil heating up 5 degrees before and during a game.

  6. could wembley not do what they did in the University of Phoenix stadium and create a retractable pitch that can be moved out of the stadium to cater for concerts and all the other crap wembley currently hosts. The pitch could also be left under direct sunlight for the whole day and would avoid this farce ever happening again. But thats just my opinion (Croke park will always be better then Wembley pitch wise and as a stadium)

    1. Mark..That would have made complete sense but was not built into the design from what I understand. The condition of the pitch is an ongoing national disgrace (see my comments above). They managed to do this at the Sapporo Stadium in South Korea but typically they didn’t have the nouse to think of this in the plans it seems.

      Most people accept Wembley in West London is too densely populated to allow for adequate parking and ancilliary facilities (ie slide in/out of pitch). The replacement National Stadium ought to have been built more centrally in the country but as is the case with most major projects here, Government and politics play a large role in where the money goes.

      Wembley ought to be at the forefront of world stadia but the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff cost significantly less and is superior most respects.

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