When FC Zenit St. Petersburg played their last game at the Petrovsky stadium in April this year to move in a new home, the newly-built and scandal-filled Krestovsky stadium (officially named the St. Petersburg Arena), many observers were making scathing comments that Zenit would be back soon as the new venue merely was not prepared. It happened even earlier than suggested. The match against FC Krasnodar, initially scheduled to be held at the Krestovsky, will be played on May 17 at the Petrovsky. The reason is the corrupt… oh, sorry, the bad quality of grass on the stadium’s field.
The stadium on the Krestovsky island in Saint Petersburg, which hosts games of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 in less than six weeks, has a very long story of fallouts and malfunction. When we were writing about it in our article dedicated to the problems of the venue dubbed Zenit Arena, Gazprom Arena, Corruption Arena, Anecdote Arena and even Shame Arena, we warned that the difficulties would go on. That was obvious, of course, but we could not imagine where the biggest challenge would come from.
On December 29, the Krestovsky stadium was officially put into operation with all papers filled in and signed by supervisory governmental bodies and the owner, the city’s government, who have reportedly spent on the venue 48 billion rubles (with even more expenses to undoubtedly follow) since 2007 to the present day, making it one of the most expensive football arenas in the world.
The venue was tested by a 10,000-strong show in February and by emergency services in April and then came the time for the first official football match. On April 22, Zenit defeated FC Ural which had Roman The Sleeping Giant Pavlyuchenko in their squad 2-0. Nearly 20,000 fans liked the arena despite numerous flaws and only few toilets in order.
The stadium was not, to be honest, ready to host all 68,000 visitors which it was designed to host, because many works have not still been completed. That was that very reason for the observers to doubt that Zenit left the Petrovsky for long.
But the biggest blow was dealt not by the limited possibility to visit a toilet. It has come, and not unexpectedly, from the grass which made the footballers remember their childhood and playing on lawns in the parks or in the streets. The field was very bad and attracted great criticism from the teams involved and football specialists.
The photos below leave no doubts why.
How come the most expensive sport object in Russian history has a field that cannot be played on?
That’s simple. The grass was sown in May 2016 and then the field was handed over by a company hired to do this job to the general contractor responsible for the whole project. Amid numerous scandals, delays, change of general contractor and all other tensions around the venue in 2016, when it was not even clear whether the stadium would be completed in time, the field was not cared of and was kept in inappropriate conditions. It was merely neglected, that’s what had happened, to put in briefly.
FC Zenit took control over the field in February 2017 to discover that it was “dead”, as Zenit’s CEO Maxim Mitrofanov said in an interview. Who is responsible for that? Nobody knows and nobody is likely to be punished. What’s clear right now is that the main victim of the bad management is the FC Zenit St. Petersburg, whose representatives even ask the media not to call the venue The Zenit Arena as they don’t want to get associated with this monument to misdoing.
Why FC Zenit which is now responsible for managing the Krestovsky stadium is the biggest victim here?
Just after the first match against FC Ural, Zenit’s general manager Mircha Lucescu asked the club’s management to get back to the Petrovsky stadium to play there the next game against FC Terek scheduled on May 7, but his request was rejected. One of the reasons for the rejection was the fact that FIFA demanded at least three events be held at the new arena before it would be accredited to host the Confederations Cup 2017.
So on May 7, the both teams were forced to enjoy themselves with mounds and bald patches again. But this time Mr Lucescu was much more critical: “Even the worst clubs of Ukraine don’t have such fields”, he said at a news conference after the game his team had lost 0-1. CEO of Gazprom, the Zenit’s sponsor, Alexey Miller told that the field was dangerous for the players with the ball moving along unpredictable trajectories.
On May 11, a special commission of FIFA was inspecting the grass, soon thereafter the news about the return to the Petrovsky came.
So, what’s next for the Krestovsky stadium where the opening match of the Confederations Cup 2017 to be held on June 22 with Russia and New Zealand national teams starting the tournament and possible presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin? What the teams of Russia, New Zealand, Portugal, Cameroon and Australia as well as two finalists (we bet on Germany and Portugal, Chile forgive us, please) must be ready for?
There are two options right now. At first, as Fontanka.ru news agency reported, they would try to sew the field by synthetics threads to help the grass grow. If this attempt fails, then there is only one way left: buying a field and praying for it to endure until the end of the tournament.