UEFA orders Lille Euro 2016 stadium pitch relaid

Lille (France) (AFP) – UEFA has ordered the pitch at the Lille Euro 2016 stadium to be hastily relaid after Wednesday’s game between Italy and the Republic of Ireland because of “irreversible damage” caused by bad weather.

Italy were furious that they were being forced to play on the surface before it is changed.

Lille is one of several stadiums at the tournament in France to face angry comments. Even the Stade de France pitch to be used for the July 10 final has been criticised by France coach Didier Deschamps.

Deschamps said it was “shameful” to have played France’s 0-0 draw with Switzerland this week on the Lille pitch where several players slipped on the turf.

The grass was painted green before the match in a bid to hide its poor state. Giant blowers had been used at the ground in recent weeks between matches to make sure the turf is not damaged by rain.

“The extremely difficult weather conditions in the past few weeks (rain, humidity, lack of sunshine) have caused irreversible damage to the surface at the stadium,” UEFA said of the emergency operation at Lille.

Italy and Ireland were not allowed to train on the damaged surface on Tuesday and Italian coach Antonio Conte gave a scathing assessment.

“The playing surface definitely isn’t suitable. It isn’t up to hosting a European Championship match,” Conte told a press conference.

“I don’t like coming up with excuses for my players because we’ll play on this pitch as will Ireland. However, we did expect a different pitch to this one.”

The new turf will be brought from the Netherlands and laid on Friday. The pitch has already been relaid once this year.

Europe’s governing body said they were “confident” the new surface would pose no problems for the last-16 match on June 26 and quarter-final on July 1 to be played at Lille.

“UEFA has previously successfully carried out the replacement of a pitch during the Euro…the pitch at St-Jakob Park in Basel was replaced during Euro 2008,” the statement added.

Last week, Deschamps labelled the pitch in Marseille “a disaster” after the hosts’ 2-0 win over Albania in Group A. The Stade de France pitch is also considered to be in a poor state, while the turf at Nice has also been relaid this year.

An AC/DC rock concert was held at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome one month before the first Euro game there on June 11 when England played Russia.

But UEFA said repair work in Marseille and Paris was “already bearing fruit” and insisted they “should be in good condition within a few days”.

Austrian turf manufacturer Richter hit back at French pitch complaints, saying the turf for the stadiums in Lille and Marseille was “delivered in top condition”.

“Since mid-2015, Uefa has inspected, tested and selected our turf as some of the best in Europe,” Richter said in a statement.

“The turf placement and further care were handled by French companies,” it said, insisting that it had no control over the grounds’ condition.

UEFA highlighted its “complete satisfaction” with its Irish pitch consultant Richard Hayden. 

UEFA “maintains its complete confidence in his expertise. UEFA rejects the completely baseless criticism directed at him throughout the tournament.”

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