About 10am on Saturday morning I started getting messages that the Hong Kong Stadium pitch was worse than it was before. I thought people were joking. Unfortunately they weren’t. I went to the stadium myself at about 11am and was shocked by what I saw. I had fully expected to go to the rugby and see a perfect pitch and to be writing in this blog how frustrated I was that our game against China next week wasn’t going to be played at the HK Stadium. Instead I had to agree with LCSD that there is no way the pitch would recover in time. Indeed it looked like it hadn’t ‘recovered’ from the last rugby 7s held in March. So instead of asking ‘why is it not possible for a pitch to recover in 9 days’? I found myself asking ‘how is it possible to spend 7 months and HK$100m and still end up with a pitch that is virtually unplayable’? It is no good blaming 50 ‘vigorous’ games of rugby, the sad truth is that the pitch was cutting up badly in the first game.
Believe me, there is no way that the pitch could have sustained a 15 a side game of rugby, it would have been ripped to shreds. I am relieved that this weekend’s rugby 7s tournament effectively acted as a ‘test’ event. If it had been untried and we had played against China on it next week, goodness knows what would have happened. When the pitch was bad during the Barclays Asia Trophy it was apparently the Football Association’s fault for scheduling too many matches and the rain’s fault for …er…. raining. Now it is apparently a problem with the ‘heat’ in September. Surely the excuses are running thin now, in fact almost as thin as the grass cover on the pitch.
In retrospect it appears that the decision to play the match against China at Mong Kok is the right one but of course not for the right reason. I remain very concerned about the HK Stadium pitch because it is supposed to be the home venue for one of our Premier League teams and we also want to use it for other upcoming matches such as the Lunar New Year Cup in early February. I am not interested in excuses any more, we just need urgent assurances that there is a longer term solution to what is obviously a problematic situation.
Mark Sutcliffe, November 2015