1 Moscow's Champions League pitch replaced

A major doubt has emerged over the playing surface for the Champions League final.

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The Russian authorities spent nine months growing a grass pitch to replace the artificial surface at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium but, shortly after installing it this week, experts decided that it was too bumpy.

Moscow's Champions League pitch replaced Second time lucky? The new pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium has already had to be dug up and replaced

A second grass pitch has been imported from Slovakia, at a cost of £160,000, and laid down instead.

Uefa last night appeared oblivious to the change, though. "As far as I am aware, we sent someone over who worked at the Emirates Stadium to check the progress of the pitch two weeks ago," said spokesman William Gaillard.

However, pitch expert Matthew Frost (above), who has been overseeing the operation, said: "We put it in the stadium, then we took it out again.

"It was always the wrong selection of turf. I told them nine months ago. But I'm an adviser and all I can do is advise. It is a normal situation in Russia."

The pitch that was intended for the final was grown just 500 metres from the Luzhniki Stadium at a cost of £1.5 million.

Frost, who is known as the 'Plastic Terminator', has lived in a rented flat near the stadium since September and cared for the grass through the winter.

Last week he had sounded confident, saying that it would be a "Rolls-Royce of a pitch". However, it is believed he had private concerns.

Swathes of grass were apparently of varying heights and failed to mesh.

Instead, according to Luzhniki deputy general director Boris Megrelidze, they purchased the Slovak pitch and hurried it through customs.

The discarded pitch is now being used for landscaping around the stadium.

Surface tension

Groundsmen prefer not to work with an institute pitch, one that is laid rather than grown at source, as it takes time to settle.

Another possible problem in Moscow is having to compete with rehearsals and preparations before a big event. In addition, there are TV crews and personnel everywhere, so groundsmen are limited over the time they get to water the pitch.

Groundsman Matthew Frost will let the grass grow longer than normal for football. They will then cut it once it's all in place.

Frost said: "I've worked in different countries, in Greece, in China. There they used the same system as here in Russia."

www.telegraph.co.uk

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