BY SANJAY NAIR, Straits Times

The Singapore Sports Hub has vowed to get to the root of the problem facing the National Stadium pitch and fix it, said its chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik.

The state of the new National Stadium field was criticised in a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday night, barely an hour after Brazil had beaten Japan 4-0 in an international friendly played on the arena’s sandy and patchy surface.

Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin said that “the sub-standard readiness of the pitch” was “far from being satisfactory” and that it was a “significant disappointment”.

Speaking to The Straits Times in response to the comments, Oon – who was Lim’s predecessor at Sport Singapore, which was then called the Singapore Sports Council – said: “It’s pointless for us to get into a war of words with Sport Singapore.

“We are partners, this is a long-term partnership so we should be working together for the good of Singapore sport. We have been very honest about the state of the pitch. We want it to be better and we will fix it. We’ve gathered very, very positive feedback from all stakeholders, from consumers to partners such as the police, for tonight’s event. We will build on this for future events.”

The Japan-Brazil match was the first sell-out event at the new National Stadium. A total of 51,577 fans saw Brazil superstar Neymar create history by scoring all four goals in the win, the first time he has scored four goals for the five-time World Cup winners.

While the pitch was visibly not up to mark and caused the ball to bobble at times, the match ended without any major incident despite some concern that the poor surface may result in injuries. Still, the surface was widely criticised by international media as well as Singapore’s online community, which made it the butt of jokes under the hashtag #yourpitchissosandy.

The Sports Hub, which cost $1.33 billion to construct, was built under a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme with the Singapore Government.

It will bear the cost of constructing and operating the Sports Hub, which also includes the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the OCBC Arena and the OCBC Aquatic Centre. The Government did not pay anything upfront. But it is making annual payments over 25 years to SportsHub Pte Ltd, which manages and runs the Sports Hub.

The first payment was in August 2010 when construction of the project started.

Sport Singapore added on Tuesday that it is considering withholding payment if the situation does not improve and Sports Hub fails to deliver on what was promised. A key outcome will be whether next month’s Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup will take place at the venue as planned.

The AFF had expressed concerns over the pitch, especially since the National Stadium will host a concert and a rugby match in the weeks leading to the Nov 23 kick-off.

A decision will be announced today if the tournament will still go ahead or be moved to an alternative venue.

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