Suzuki Cup D-day soon
The ongoing saga over whether the 55,000-capacity National Stadium is fit to host the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup will reach a conclusion next week.
This after an hour-long meeting between the AFF, Football Association of Singapore (FAS), Sport Singapore and Sports Hub officials at the National Stadium yesterday.
An AFF spokesman said last night: "Today's discussion with the Singapore Sports Hub saw all parties committed to finding a solution to the issue of the National Stadium pitch.
"AFF will deliberate on this matter and make a considered decision by next week."
The issue arose after The New Paper reported last week that the ground's hosting of a Jay Chou concert and a rugby friendly contravenes the AFF's minimum 15-day requirement for the pitch to "rest" before the start of the Suzuki Cup.
Singapore will co-host the tournament, which takes place from Nov 22 to Dec 20, with Vietnam.
The Republic are the reigning champions and will host matches in Group B, which features Thailand, Malaysia, the winners of the qualifying tournament and the Lions.
At the time, AFF general secretary Datuk Azzudin Ahmad would not say if Singapore's hosting rights would be revoked, but insisted they would not close "one eye" over the issue.
There has been much concern over the state of the Dresso pitch - a combination of synthetic turf and natural grass - at the domed stadium at Kallang.
There were many complaints regarding the sandy patches when the first football match played there on Aug 16. It featured Italian champions Juventus and Singapore Selection side.
While it was in better shape on Tuesday for the glamour international friendly between Brazil and Japan, there were still visible sandy areas on the playing surface.
At yesterday's meeting, the AFF was represented by general secretary Azzudin, his deputy Toh Sen Nee, and council member Datuk Hamidin Amin.
They also brought along independent field expert Hiroi Koichi, who met with the Sports Hub's senior director of stadia, Gregory Gillin, regarding the pitch.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin and general secretary Winston Lee, and Sports Hub chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik and chief executive Philippe Collin Delavaud, represented the consortium, along with working staff from Sport Singapore.
During the meeting, Sports Hub officials mooted several suggestions to the AFF, which TNP understands were favourably received.
Previously, Oon said discussions with the promoters of the Nov 15 rugby match between the Maori All Blacks and the Asia Pacific Dragons were ongoing and that all options were on the table, including postponing or cancelling the exhibition game.
Azzudin will present the suggestions to the AFF Council, who are expected to make a decision by early next week.
If the National Stadium does not get the go ahead to host the Suzuki Cup Group B games, the 7,500-seater Jalan Besar Stadium is a likely alternate venue.
However, the choice would represent a loss of revenue for the tournament organisers, considering the significant disparity in seating capacity with the 55.000 venue.
Oct 9: TNP's exclusive report highlights the fact a Jay Chou concert on Nov 8 and the Nov 15 rugby match between the Maori All Blacks and the Asia Pacific Dragons contravened the AFF's requirement disallowing any other event at a Suzuki Cup venue before the tournament's start on Nov 23. AFF general secretary Datuk Azzudin Ahmad said the body will not "close one eye" on the issue.
Oct 9: Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin warns Singapore Sports Hub Pte Ltd, the consortium that operates the entire facility, they are "accountable" and "responsible" for making sure the Suzuki Cup goes on as planned. The FAS conducts an inspection of the pitch and say that it is far short of international standard.
Oct 13: A day before the glamour international friendly between Japan and Brazil, the Sports Hub invite media to the National Stadium and insist turf is 100 per cent playable, and getting better.
Oct 14: An hour after the international, Lim says that despite the football "extravaganza" on show, the sandy surface of the pitch was "a great pity" and a "significant disappointment". He stressed the national sports body's expectations of the Sports Hub.
Oct 15: The AFF, FAS, Sport Singapore and Sports Hub officials meet for an hour to deliberate if the National Stadium is fit to host Suzuki Cup games, and discuss possible alternatives.