‘Unfit and unsafe’ pitch at Tampines leads to SPL match being postponed
SINGAPORE – Only one word is needed for Geylang International coach Noor Ali to describe the poor condition of the pitch at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) – koyak (torn in Malay).
The “unfit and unsafe” state of the artificial pitch at the Eagles’ home ground has resulted in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) announcing on Monday that the match between Geylang and Balestier Khalsa on Tuesday, 8.30pm, would be postponed by a day and moved to the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Football Association of Singapore said in a statement: “Upon extensive inspection, SPL officials have found the pitch at OTH to be in a state that is unfit and unsafe for professional competition football.
“The Football Association of Singapore prioritises the health and safety of all players and officials especially in competitions like the SPL, and in this instance, has determined that the state of the pitch in OTH has unfortunately fallen short of the expected standards.
“The FAS has informed the venue owner in OTH to rectify the issues before its next inspection to assess the playability of the OTH pitch.”
OTH is also the home stadium for Tampines Rovers and it is understood that their match against Brunei DPMM on April 20 is likely to be affected too.
A frustrated Noor said: “What is most worrying is not that the game is postponed, but the injury risk the pitch poses. It also did not help that the pitch was block booked and we couldn’t train at OTH for the whole of last week.
“Instead, we moved around like nomads and trained at Bedok, St Wilfred and Jalan Besar, and the quality of our training was compromised. This shouldn’t be happening in professional football.
“We returned to train at OTH for the first time in a week on Monday and it was so bad, we requested FAS to come down to inspect the pitch. We did so to protect both teams who were supposed to play there on Tuesday.”
He noted that they had to train at Tampines on Tuesday as the Jalan Besar Stadium was being used for the Young Lions and Brunei DPMM game, adding that “we just have to manage the sessions to avoid the problem areas and hope we don’t suffer major injuries”.
Balestier general manager Cheng Tim Nee was also disappointed to learn of the rescheduling on Monday night and suggested the match be played at Bishan Stadium on Tuesday, to no avail.
He added: “This situation has caused inconvenience to many parties. We guess the hosts needed more match preparation time. Safety is paramount for all concerned and we move on.”
With People’s Association (PA) as the lead agency, OTH opened in 2017 and started hosting the Stags that year, before the Eagles moved in to share the stadium from 2019. That year, a match between both teams was moved to Jalan Besar due to poor pitch conditions.
Tampines typically train at OTH from 5 to 7pm this season, while Geylang conduct their sessions from 7 to 9pm. Members of the public have also booked and used the field from 9 to 11pm.
The OTH had hosted the JSSL Singapore Professional Academy Sevens, a private event last week. Sources told ST that the tentages and signboards placed on the turf led to damage such as tears and ditches.
It is also understood that the pitch has not been replaced since its opening six years ago.
Noor said: “This is not the first time this has happened, and the pitch has been really bad for some time now. We understand that the facility is open for bookings, but we also cannot be running all over the place to train and play.”
An OTH spokesman said that as part of their maintenance programme, the pitch will be returfed in 2024.
He said: “We agree with the FAS that the OTH pitch was unsafe for a competitive football match. While we understand the frustration of not being able to compete on match day after extensive preparation for it, the safety of the players is of utmost concern.
“The pitch was damaged after a seven-a-side youth tournament organised by the JSSL Singapore Professional Academy from 7 April to 9 April 2023. Some instances include damaged segments and the inability to remove temporary lines drawn on the pitch for the seven-a-side matches.
“The pitch was last returfed in 2017 and will be returfed next year as part of our cyclical maintenance programme. We will make good the pitch as soon as possible, so that the players can resume the games.”