Insights on the ‘Football Field Grass’ crisis?

By Associate Prof. Dr Mohamad Nizam Nazarudin, Faculty of Education
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia


KOTA KINABALU: Even individuals who are not directly engaged in football have heard complaints regarding the condition of the grass at Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
Every time a big football tournament features the national squad, fans feel let down. But ever since the Malaysian team faced India in the first match of the 2023 Merdeka Football Festival, SNBJ’s brand-new pitch has looked ruined.
Zeon Zoysia grass was utilised to replace the Cow Grass type grass that was previously used at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, which was expected to cost up to RM1.4 million. When compared to cow grass, which is said to be unsuitable for contemporary football, Zeon Zoysia grass is a tough kind with wet weather and heat endurance.
The first inquiry that emerges is the quality of the grass. However, previous feedback from users of grass suggests that this phenomenon is not attributable to the grass itself, but rather to the level of maturity of the grass. Does the grassroots exhibit significant strength? The disruption caused by the uprooted grass not only hinders the execution of actions but also increases the chance of injury, as seen by Malaysian Player Corbin Ong’s attempt to prevent the Indian side from scoring their second goal. As anticipated, this rationale was also cited as the cause of the Indian team’s loss. The chairman of the Malaysian Stadium Corporation himself admitted that they faced problems in ensuring that the grass got enough lighting due to the structure of the stadium’s roof.
Therefore, the second question arises, that is, if they already know the actual condition of the grass, then why was permission given to use the stadium field? Although it was clearly said by His Royal Highness Tunku Ismail about the readiness of this type of grass to the Minister of Youth and Sports and the Chairman of the Malaysian Stadium Corporation during the field opening ceremony. Is there any consultation between the turf contractor and the stadium authority?
The last question is who made the decision to allow this field to be used? What is the main motive for permission to be given? Then the issue of ‘impatience’ and ‘quick profit-making’ arises. Why is there no other stadium that can be replaced? In fact, His Royal Highness Tunku Ismail himself expressed his willingness to allow the use of the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.
It is understood that the Zeon Zoysia grass maintenance cost is quite expensive at around RM240,000 per year. Therefore, at present the decision of the Likas Stadium management to use the existing grass which is the cheaper type of Cow Grass is very coincidental. Throughout the organization of matches under the Malaysia Football League and the recent AFC Cup also did not show any major problems.
What is interesting to learn from this issue is that the decision-making process regarding the use of football fields is crucial for several important reasons. The condition of the football field has a direct impact on player safety. Injuries may occur in poorly maintained or dangerous fields, which is why decision-making is crucial in limiting these risks. A key element of sports is fair competition. Proper decision-making contributes to maintaining fairness by keeping the pitch in a consistent and playable state for all teams or players.
Allowing the usage of an incomplete field may subject the responsible parties to legal obligations in the event of an accident or injury. Before allowing the field to be used, it is essential to observe safety requirements and check that it complies with local laws and standards.
Rushing to utilise an uncompleted pitch might harm the organisers’, venue’s, or sports team’s image. It may result in unfavourable publicity and a loss of trust among fans and stakeholders. Impatience may have financial ramifications, since the requirement for continuous maintenance and adjustments may result in expenses that exceed the original building budget.

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