Why Portsmouth and Arsenal were locked in a pitch battle on this day in 2006

On this day in 2006, Pompey and Arsenal were locked in a pitch battle.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 5:30 am
The waterlogged pitch at Fratton Park, Portsmouth as the game is called off following a pitch inspection before the Barclays Premiership match between Portsmouth and Arsenal, Saturday March 25, 2006. Picture:Chris Ison/ PA.

Arsene Wenger slammed Pompey and called for the Premier League to intervene over the state of their pitch.

But Pompey branded the Gunners boss unfair and defended the Fratton Park playing surface.

Wenger was fuming that Arsenal had to shoehorn a rearranged trip to Pompey into an April when they had nine games if they reached the Champions League semi-finals.

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He complained about a wasted weekend on the south coast when a waterlogged pitch claimed the previous Saturday’s Premiership fixture.

Wenger said: ‘I think it’s disappointing that a Premier League match can be called off nowadays.

‘There is certainly an opportunity there for the Premier League to make compulsory demands on clubs about the state of their pitch.

‘Not only for postponed games, but also about the quality of the surface because I believe clubs should have a responsibility towards the quality of the spectacle.

‘We stayed down there the night before and spent seven hours on the coach, basically for nothing.

‘It means a rearranged game for us in a congested schedule.’

Pompey laid a new pitch on top of their deteriorating old one the previous January.

But the club insisted there was not time in the fortnight between home matches to replace the aging drainage system situated underneath the playing surface nor to remove more soil under the new surface.

That meant more rain failed to drain away on Saturday because it had another layer to get through.

Pompey planned to install new drainage in the summer.

Chief executive Peter Storrie said: ‘I think they are very, very unfair comments by Arsene Wenger.

‘I’m not prepared to accept criticism of Portsmouth Football Club like that, because the pitch was playable.

‘We will certainly defend any criticism made of us. It was impossible to do more drainage work when we laid the new pitch earlier this year.

‘New drainage will be put in before the start of next season, which has always been the plan.

‘But that’s an irrelevant debate in terms of the Arsenal game, because the pitch was playable.

‘You cannot criticise the referee. He made a fair and honest professional judgement based on what he thought the weather would be.

‘There were predictions for further rain, but the rain stopped before kickoff.

‘But we were happy with the pitch. Everyone at the ground, including all the Sky people, were bemused that it was called off.

‘We did as much as we could do to protect the pitch, which was covered until a few hours before kickoff.’

A Premier League spokesman said they were happy with Pompey’s pitch.

He said: ‘Under Premier League rules pitches have to be of a certain standard.

‘As well as our own assessors, to a large extent we rely on referees to tell us if they’re not. But we have not had any complaints from them about Fratton Park’s surface.’