San Siro staff insist Milan pitch is fit for Champions League final
The team of groundstaff responsible for the playing surface at Milan's San Siro stadium have hit back at claims the condition of the pitch is poor ahead of the upcoming Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
UEFA's senior match operations manager, Keith Dalton, was quoted as saying in a speech at the World Stadium Congress in Doha that there were doubts over the abilities of the stadium's own staff.
"We have to tackle a lot of problems if we want a field worthy of the final," Dalton said.
"With all due respect, the head groundsman is very young but he is the only one in the operations team with any technical skill. At best, the others can hold a fork.
"The grass will be ready in time. The Spanish fans can relax. We are aiming very high with regard to quality.
"But we want perfection because we are talking about the Champions League final. I am sure it will be done."
Despite those words of assurance the M-I Stadio group, which is responsible for the playing surface in the Milan venue, responded to Dalton's remarks by saying in a statement that he had "never even been seen at the San Siro" in the past three years.
"What he says, aside from not being true, does not correspond with what UEFA have officially told us and is totally contradictory because he even says that the pitch can be in a totally perfect condition," read the statement, published by Gazzetta dello Sport.
"This will happen thanks to the work of the technical and operational staff, coordinated by the San Siro's agronomist, who has the same role for the Lega Serie A and Lega Serie B, with workers who are absolutely adequate in terms of quality and quantity with professionalism and many years of experience and roles recognised on a national and international level.
"We would like to remind also that the monitoring of the pitch for the Champions League final was started by UEFA and its advisors last October with periodic evaluations and it currently has a rating of 4.5 out of 5, and will reach 5 by May 28.
"Furthermore, the pitch has been examined by delegates of the finalists, who judged it to be in a good condition. If there had been any criticism, we would have been told to relay the field, which is something that has not been necessary in the past three years at the San Siro during a season precisely because of the excellent level it has obtained, unlike other pitches which have staged UEFA finals."
UEFA's director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti said on Wednesday night that his colleague's words had been "taken out of context," adding that "UEFA has absolutely no reservations about the state of the pitch in Milan, which will be excellent."
Milan is the first Italian city since Rome in 2009 to stage European club football's showpiece, having previously staged the event in 1965, 1970 and 2001.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.