The 2015 Rugby World Cup will "almost certainly" be played on plastic turf at Wales' Millennium Stadium in "a decision that will anger traditionalists," according to Stephen Jones of the SUNDAY TIMES. The Welsh Rugby Union is "ready to dig up the often troublesome turf" at the Millennium Stadium and replace it with an artificial surface. WRU CEO Roger Lewis said an artificial grass pitch “is being given serious consideration. We are looking at the implications.” Broadcasters and marketing men, however, "will applaud the move, which would end the much-publicised struggles of Millennium Stadium staff to provide a good surface." The turf at the ground has to be replaced several times a year, partly because "sunlight is blocked by the steep stands." At least six matches in the next World Cup will be played at Cardiff. Well before then, the grass is "expected to be replaced" by the artificial surface, which includes, from the bottom up, a layer of stone aggregate, a thick black rubber shock pad and a covering of artificial green yarn to a depth of 5cm, with an infill of black rubber crumb (SUNDAY TIMES, 12/16). In London, Sunni Upal reported the Int'l Rugby Board has approved the surface with the only sticking point for the WRU being "whether it can handle the heavy equipment used for music shows, which provide a good source of revenue." Traditionalists are "unhappy that an artificial pitch removes bad bounces and the need for teams to change or adapt their style for the conditions" (DAILY MAIL, 12/16).
WAY OF THE FUTURE: In London, Jones also wrote in a separate piece for the SUNDAY TIMES "all this is anathema to traditionalists," but Premiership side Saracens "are unapologetic." They are "anxious to develop a partnership with the local community and the surface will be available for use by local schools and clubs." Whereas a grass pitch "can be typically used for about two to five hours a week, the latest artificial surfaces can be used for more than 40 hours a week and require minimal maintenance." Saracens High Performance Dir Scott Murphy believes that such pitches are "the way of the future." Murphy: “We have gone for the artificial option because we are anxious to develop it for community use but also because we pride ourselves on being ground-breaking and trail-blazing." The plans for Allianz Park suggest it will be a "driving force for the rest of the sport in terms of spectator facilities, with several innovations planned." There will be "an outlet from a high-street pizza chain, with messengers delivering food to the crowd at halftime; there will be an iPhone app available that will offer instant replays from various angles; and the ground will boast the 'longest bar in rugby.'" The pies "will be organic and the rugby mud-free and safe from the risk of postponed matches" (SUNDAY TIMES, 12/16).
Sixth-tier Blue Square Bet North side Hinckley United FC has offered its fellow "cash-strapped neighbours," League One side Coventry City, a "shock football lifeline by offering to ground share," according to the HINKLEY TIMES. The Knitters have offered Coventry City an opportunity to share its Greene King Stadium home after "discovering the Sky Blues could soon be homeless." The club has been looking at the former Rushden and Diamonds Stadium as a possible home, but "the distance is a turn off." Hinckley interim Chair Mike Sutton confirmed he had spoken with Coventry City Chair Tim Fisher this week about the ground share. The Sky blues have 6,000 season ticket holders whereas Hinckley’s stadium only has a capacity of 4,200, but Sutton said that "temporary seating would be installed to provide extra seating for fans" (HINCKLEY TIMES, 12/14).
PAYING THE RENT: The BBC reported the owners of Coventry's Ricoh Arena, Arena Coventry Limited, has issued Coventry with a Boxing Day deadline to "pay the claimed amount of rent, or face a winding-up petition." However, the Sky Blues believe that the rent is "too high in relation to other clubs of a similar level, and are keen to negotiate with ACL." The club is also interested in "retaining some of the match-day revenue, which currently goes to ACL" (BBC, 12/13).
PORT VALE ALSO OFFERS: The Staffordshire SENTINEL reported League Two side Port Vale CEO Norman Smurthwaite said that he "would allow Coventry City to play at Vale Park." Coventry-born millionaire Smurthwaite said, "If City end up needing a stadium, I'd be prepared to do a ground share. They haven't asked, but I'd to do it until the end of this season, though I wouldn't do it next season because we'll be playing them in League One. We certainly wouldn't let them come for free. But I would enter dialogue with them" (SENTINEL, 12/15).
League One Leyton Orient Owner Barry Hearn said that the "Olympic Stadium debacle is going to run and run and run," according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. Hearn is to "continue his legal battles" after meeting the London Legacy Development Corp. Hearn had been "expected to call off his lawyers" from opposing West Ham’s move to Stratford after the EPL club were named preferred bidders by the LLDC, with Orient’s groundshare application rejected. But he now intends to re-activate a High Court action "challenging the Premier League giving the Hammers the green light to relocate to the Olympic Park." West Ham is expected to finalize terms with the LLDC by next March. Hearn will wait until that contract is signed before "taking up arms" against the EPL -- "ensuring months more of uncertainly around this troubled project." Hearn said, "I can’t oppose the decision until West Ham have a deal in place. I know, after talking to the LLDC, that the Olympic Stadium is all about money and nothing about community values. And we believe the Premier League don’t understand their own rulebook by allowing West Ham to move to Stratford." The EPL says there are many criterias to take into account over such a move -- "only one of which is it having a negative impact on another club in the vicinity" (DAILY MAIL, 12/14).
The Italian city of Verona "presented financial plans for the construction of a new ice rink on Friday," according to the EISHOCKEY MAGAZIN. The Accademia del Ghiaccio "will operate the new arena for the next 25 years and put €2.5M ($3.3M) in the project." The ice rink "is expected to open for the '13-14 winter season and will be built in close proximity to the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi," home of Serie A club Chievo Verona (EISHOCKEY MAGAZIN, 12/16).
ICE RINK ISSUES: The SID reported that the second-tier hockey game between ESV Kaufbeuren and SC Riessersee "had to be canceled as a building assessment revealed structural issues" of the local ice rink in Kaufbeuren, Germany (SID, 12/14).