Institute of Groundsmanship slams decision to sack Wembley head groundsman following criticism of pitch by football's Ferguson, Wenger and Capello

The Institute of Groundsmanship (IoG) has responded with dismay at the sacking of Wembley head groundsman Steve Welch following the disastrous state of the pitch.

IoG chief executive Geoff Webb said: "We were very disappointed to learn that Steve Welch was relieved of his post following a media furore over the state of the pitch.

"Having followed Steve's progress since taking on the role in 2005 I have always been impressed by his professionalism and dedication to what is indisputably one of the most difficult jobs in the industry"

The Football Association refused to comment but a press spokesman was reported to have said an official statement was due later this week. Repeated phone calls to the Wembley press office went unanswered.

Welch was named Named Groundsman of the Year in 2002 and was widely respected by industry peers, said Webb.

"Is this a case of trial by media and scape-goating or a necessary move by Wembley management? We look forward to hearing Steve's side of the story in the future."

The pitch has taken a pasting in recent months from some of the highest profile managers including England manager Fabio Capello, Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Last week Wembley said it would returf the pitch, also used for concerts and other sporting events like speedway. The hectic scheduling of rock concerts and other events restricted the type of surface it could use.

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