The Wembley Pitch is the flagship for our industry. In its current condition it is seriously undermining our profession.
I would like to pose a few questions that I believe need to be answered honestly and accurately from someone within the FA and/or at Wembley to explain why the Wembley pitch was in such a poor state for what was one of the most important football matches played in years.
How is it that nearly every other stadium pitch in the UK has a surface that is playable and performs vastly superior to the current Wembley one?
The condition of the pitch was totally unacceptable. I believe it has set our industry back years in terms of raising the standard of Groundsmanship. I am sure there are hundreds of practicing Groundsmen who were shocked to see the pitch in such a poor state and want to know what the problems are?
Many may speculate, or have some ideas of their own, as to what has led to the current situation. But, as an industry, we need answers - truthful answers.
This is the National Stadium we are talking about. It should be representing the best practices our industry has to offer in terms of pitch management.
There should be no expense spared. The groundstaff should have the latest equipment, best materials and adequate resources available to maintain the pitch to the highest standard.
Every possible aid should be available, and on hand at a moments notice, to help keep the pitch in order. Lighting rigs, under soil heating, sub-air systems, covers, tents, fans, irrigation equipment and the very best machinery to aid the process of repairing and pitch recovery.
The actual cost of all this equipment, manpower and appropriate resources is chicken feed compared to the amount of money spent in other sectors of the Wembley Stadium.
The income generation from having a quality pitch is huge. It has been reported that the FA and the football industry will have lost over £1 billion worth of business from England's failure to qualify for the European Championships.
Who has overall responsible for the decision-making regarding the pitch? Is it the Head Groundsman, Steve Welch, or is he working under orders from others and, if so, who are they? Are his hands tied?
What are his duties and responsibilities?
Does Steve Welch have the appropriate support? Who are the specialists who advise? We need to know who they are. What is their experience? Do they understand all the issues when it comes to managing and maintaining a stadium pitch?
Who else is party to the decision making process regarding the maintenance and welfare of the pitch?
Is there an underlying fault with the original pitch construction? Were the correct materials specified and were they installed properly during the construction of the pitch?
Was the imported turf rootzone compatible with the original laid pitch rootzone materials?
Why does the pitch not drain freely? Is there a capillary tension problem with the pitch profile? Is there a root break between the turf layer and the original rootzone ?
Why was the pitch in such poor condition? Was it purely a lack of appropriate maintenance between events? Or not having enough time to achieve the inputs required?
Who sets the fixture calendar at the stadium? Does he/she liaise with the groundstaff? Does Steve Welch have any control over these fixtures or events?
Are maintenance schedules planned in advance and events planned around them?
The NFL Football Match - did anyone consider the potential damage that was likely to be caused by this event? What contingencies were there in place? Why was it not turfed straight after the game? What maintenance regimes were undertaken after the game? Was there any deep aeration regimes carried out to improve the porosity of the pitch? Why were the old lines and NFL pitch markings still visible?
We need to have more honesty and transparency from the FA, Wembley and the Head Groundsman.
The Wembley Pitch is the flagship for our industry. In its current condition it is seriously undermining our profession. Many institutions and industry governing bodies have spent years trying to raise the profile of the turfcare professional and the role they have as curators of turf.
There are still too many people who believe that groundsmen only cut grass. I am sure this stigma will continue if we cannot get our National Stadium Pitch performing, as it should.
So please, can we have some answers to the questions posed?
There are many inside and outside our industry would like some honest answers?
We all want to see the Head Groundsman, and anyone else who has been given the responsibility of managing this wonderful stadium, the best chance of success. Our sporting nation deserves it!