THE managing director of the firm that runs the John Smith’s Stadium is confident the pitch – labelled “unacceptable” by Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner this week – will be fully repaired in time for the start of the new Premier League season.
A concert by one-time X-Factor winners Little Mix 12 days ago has left the surface badly damaged at one end, where heavy grade plastic covers were laid in front of the stage.
Neither the ground staff nor concert promoters, SJM Concerts, can work out why the covering, which is also used at other venues such as Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium when staging music gigs, has left the affected area discoloured and threadbare.
Both parties are working together to rectify the damage with the clock ticking towards Chelsea’s visit to Huddersfield on August 11 for an opening match of the new season that is expected to be broadcast live in around 170 countries.
“It is absolutely not acceptable,” said Gareth Davies, managing director of the Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL), when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, “and totally understandable that David Wagner was and is so disappointed.
“We feel the same. It has been troubling my staff from the moment the damage was revealed.
“We are airing, treating, re-seeding and watering profusely the 20 per cent of the pitch that has been affected.
“It is looking better with each day and we are confident it will be in good shape (for the Chelsea game).”
This will come as welcome news to Terriers striker Laurent Depoitre, who despite scoring twice in Wednesday night’s 3-1 friendly win over Champions League qualifiers Lyon joined his manager in criticising the surface.
“It is not easy because you don’t have the same feeling on that side of the pitch,” said the Belgian striker. “Of course, it is pre-season, so not so important. But I hope it is ready for the start of the season.”
Town are not at home again in pre-season, but the pitch will be used tonight when Huddersfield Giants host Wakefield Trinity in the Super League.
The July 15 concert by Little Mix, watched by a sell-out crowd, was the first at the Stadium in 11 years. The resulting damage has led to many questioning the future staging of gigs at a venue that, in the past, has hosted REM and The Beautiful South.
“We had been very careful about getting back into the concert market,” added Davies. “I have been here eight years and we have turned down three or four concerts during that time from much smaller promoters.
“We specifically chose SJM because they are one of the largest and they are also hugely experienced. The Etihad has something like seven or eight weeks of concerts in the summer, all staged by SJM.
“They were also behind the Rolling Stones concert at Old Trafford. No one can work out why this has happened here when the Etihad and Old Trafford used the exact same covers.
“The Little Mix concerts at the Macron (in Bolton on July 14) and Hull KR (July 13) this summer were also done by SJM and, again, there were no problems.
“No one can put their finger on it. It was particularly hot on the days either side of the concert here, but we are still trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Asked if the problems would prevent concerts being staged in future years, Davies replied: “We had 28,000 fans here for the world’s No 1 girl band. It was massively popular locally and great for the area.
“First and foremost, though, we are a sports stadium. If we can work out with the promoter what has gone wrong then we will (look to stage gigs in the future). But if we can’t then we won’t.”