Pitch conditions not the only problem with national stadium

By Lam Thoa   September 18, 2021 | 02:00 am PT
Pitch conditions not the only problem with national stadium
Staff take care of the pitch at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi on September 17, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa
There are more to the current state of My Dinh National Stadium and its poor pitch quality than meets the eye.

The quality of My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi has been questioned many times. Most recently, after the World Cup qualifier between Vietnam and Australia, coach Graham Arnold had criticized the poor pitch conditions of the stadium. Some Australian fans even called it a "cow paddock" and suspected Vietnam did it on purpose to cause trouble for Australia.

On Wednesday, Hai Phong FC Chairman Van Tran Hoan proposed to host Vietnam's next home World Cup qualifiers at the club's stadium Lach Tray, which has a better pitch.

"Organizing a (World Cup qualifier) game is not just about pitch conditions. My Dinh Stadium has over 300 function rooms. We had to open nearly 100 rooms in the game with Australia. Lach Tray Stadium has renovated its pitch but there're not enough rooms there, which makes it hard to meet Asian Football Confederation (AFC) requirements. In addition, they also don't have two training sites that reach FIFA standards," Vice Director of Vietnam's National Sports Complex Tran Van Chien told VnExpress on Friday.

About the pitch conditions of My Dinh, Chien said it's regularly taken care of.

"The pitch is not that bad. Of course, it holds no candle to those in Japan, South Korea or Saudi Arabia. But compared to the standard in Southeast Asia, it's not bad. We must understand My Dinh is near 20 years old.

Before the Australia clash, AFC had evaluated the pitch and approved its quality. However, Australia requested to cut the grass once more before the game so the pitch didn't look that green on TV like it used to," Chien added.

About renovating the pitch, Chien said: "It's not difficult to do so. The important thing is where do we get the money? We have no budget. This complex is financially independent, which means we can only spend what we have earned. In the past, when the previous director Can Van Nghia was still here, the annual revenue was around VND50-70 billion ($2-3 million) but it’s all gone. The budget had already dried up when the new director, Nguyen Trong Ho, took over."

According to Chien, the complex’s main source of income is from land leasing. But for the past couple of years, they had to stop that business for the construction of the F1 racing track in the complex. However, Covid-19 struck and the race was postponed indefinitely even though the track was already finished.

"At the moment, we only have a few storage spaces for rent and they bring us a few hundred dollars each month. Recently we made a deal to lease the stadium for a concert at a price of VND900 million ($39,600) but it was also postponed because of the pandemic," Chien said.

Recently, the complex let VFF rent My Dinh for VND350 million to host the game with Australia. But Chien said the complex gained little to nothing from this.

"This was more like a task for us than a deal. Aside from the VND60 million for tax, a large chunk of the money was spent on electricity and water bills. We had to turn the electricity on two hours before the game and keep it on an hour after, plus two training sessions for Vietnam and one for Australia, not to mention one session in the training complex and other expenses. The electricity bill alone was already so high."

To solve the financial problem, the management board of the complex had developed a project to make money out of public properties at My Dinh and sent it to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism two years ago, but it's yet to be approved.

According to the government inspector’s conclusion, under former director Van Nghia, the renovation cost for My Dinh was way overpriced, as the real price was $393,400 instead of $1,049 million. The purchase of swimming pool heaters cost $306,000 while the actual price was only $43,700. The inspector suggested the ministry and the complex work with the contractor to collect the lost amount of money but this also hasn’t been done.

With the current financial situation, complex staff are struggling too. For 135 officials and employees, many had to reduce their salaries by 50 percent in August and September, although their normal salary is only around $174 a month. The complex still hasn't found a possible source of income to pay staff in the coming months.

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