【明報專訊】THE HONG KONG STADIUM has got into another mess. Despite the Hong Kong Jockey Club's (HKJC) huge spending last year on the reconstruction of the turf field and the government's annual expenditure of more than $10 million for its upkeep and maintenance, the stadium has recently been found to have loose soil and be infested with moss. This, once again, has exposed the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's (LCSD) inadequate management. The design of the stadium was itself problematic, and its management has been unprofessional. All this rendered the stadium to a field of slimy mud when it played host to several English Premier League big clubs three years ago, which was a humiliation for Hong Kong. That the stadium is beset with problems despite the huge amount of resources devoted to it shows that the LCSD has not learned any lesson seriously and the problem remains unsolved.
In the latest development, the stadium has been found to be infested with moss, which makes it easy for players running on the pitch to slip and get injured. If its condition gets worse, the pitch will not be suitable for matches. It is understood that when Juventus, a prominent Italian football club, played against South China Football Team in Hong Kong last July, the problems of loose soil and moss proliferation had already been laid bare. But no improvement has been made so far. As such problems could affect the conduct of matches, the Hong Kong Football Association has reflected the problems to the LCSD. According to experts, the problems with the turf are attributable to its mismanagement (such as over-fertilisation and over-irrigation), which caused excess moisture of the grass. Moss proliferated as a result and the soil became loose and scattered. As explained by experts, there are obvious and straightforward reasons why the stadium has reached its current condition. In normal circumstances, low-level problems like moss should not happen.
In July 2013, four English Premier League teams, including Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland, were invited to Hong Kong to take part in a competition. It was held as a grand event. But a large area of soft mud appeared on the pitch, making it unsuitable for football matches. Some of the teams were even deliberating whether to withdraw from the matches to prevent injuries of their players. After coverage by the international media, the affair became a public relations disaster, with some British media groups saying bluntly "Shame on Hong Kong" for the quality of the grass.
2013年7月，本港邀請4支英超球隊來港，包括曼聯、曼城、熱刺、新特蘭，以盛事規格主辦錦標賽。只是，當時大球場出現的大面積泥漿，根本就不適合足球比賽，有球隊為免球員受傷，一度醞釀拒絕比賽。事態經國際傳媒報道，對本港構成公關災難，有英國傳媒更直指草地質素是「Shame on Hong Kong（香港恥辱）」。
The LCSD subsequently set up an Expert Group on the Hong Kong Stadium Turf Pitch, which was tasked with advising on mid- and long-term measures for improving the turf. It also established a Sports Turf Management Section and appointed an expert from Australia as its director on a monthly salary of almost $100,000. From April last year, the stadium was closed for five months. By virtue of a sum of $31 million allocated by the HKJC's Charities Trust, the entire turf pitch was reconstructed. According to documents submitted by the LCSD to the Legislative Council, the project involved an improvement of the original design, which included the adoption of a layer of tailor-made mesh elements underneath the turf to stabilise grass roots and help them grow in the soil. The documents claimed that, if the new turf was properly maintained, it could be used for over ten years. However, the pitch became rugged after a rugby match. The stadium had to be closed for a month to let the turf recover.
The LCSD spends around $12 million every year on the maintenance of the Hong Kong Stadium, and has at its disposal all kinds of equipment. But the condition of grass leaves much to be desired. This is because the stadium as a whole has not been managed properly. The problem cannot be solved once and for all by finding a way to inhibit the growth of moss. The LCSD should strictly implement the mechanism for managing the stadium by bringing out the best in the experts and choosing the right people for the jobs so as to prevent another full-blown deterioration of the turf.