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Pitch ready for AFCON final

07 February 2013, 08:57

Johannesburg - The National Stadium pitch is ready to host the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Sunday, Stadium Management SA (SMSA) said on Wednesday.

SMSA CEO Jacques Grobbelaar said the field of play was ready to host the final following the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, which was held at the venue on Saturday.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula voiced concern about the state of the pitch after the concert, but Grobbelaar said this was unwarranted.

"We did a pitch review yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, and at 4:30pm when we opened the stadium to the members of the media," Grobbelaar said.

"We are 100 percent comfortable the pitch conforms to FIFA regulations. I still believe it's one of the better pitches in the country at the moment."

Grobbelaar said concerts were necessary to make SMSA financially viable.

"Following the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on Saturday, it definitely is adding value to the huge investment we made, following previous shows before soccer events," he said.

The pitch was changed to last year to accommodate non-sport events at the venue.

"We decided to rip out the pitch in the middle of December last year and installed a brand new 50 percent artificial pitch," Grobbelaar said.

"The new pitch is definitely extending our ability to have more events at the stadium, which is very important to our business model."

He said the government did not fund the four stadiums managed by SMSA - National Stadium, Rand Stadium, Orlando Stadium and Dobsonville Stadium.

"We're totally self-sustainable and we're reliant on these type of events," he said.

"The Cape Town Stadium is attracting a budget of R90m per annum which is funded by the taxpayers in Cape Town.

"Likewise, the Moses Mabhida Stadium and Peter Mokaba Stadium, and also the Mbombela Stadium. Those stadiums are reliant on public funding.

"We manage the stadiums at full financial risk at no cost to the taxpayer."

Grobbelaar said the National Stadium cost about R4.5m a month to operate and maintain, so the more events held there, the more cost-effective it was for SMSA.

"We're very reliant on multi-purpose eventing at the stadium," he said.

The contract to hold the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert was signed long before South Africa was given the rights to host AFCON 2013, Grobbelaar said.

"Those contracts were signed about 16 months ago. At the time, the AFCON was still scheduled for Libya," he said.

"There is an unwritten law with FIFA that if the host nation has a problem with holding the event, the fallback is always the previous country that hosted the World Cup."

Grobbelaar said cancelling the contract was not an option.

"If we didn't honour the Red Hot Chili Peppers contract, we would be open for claims in excess of R90m from them, and the consequential damages could have run into a billion rand."



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