Sheffield United ownership battle: Fall out over installation of £1 million Desso pitch

A decision to install a state-of-the-art pitch at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium sowed seeds of discontent, a judge overseeing a High Court battle between the club's co-owners has heard.

By Ben Green
Tuesday, 21 May, 2019, 14:36
The issue of the Desso pitch - installed at Bramall Lane in 2015 - was discussed at the High Court today (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, have fallen out after starting to work together six years ago.

Mr Justice Fancourt is analysing their fight for control of the newly promoted Premier League club at a High Court hearing in London.

Sheffield United Ltd, a company controlled by Mr McCabe and his family, has alleged "conspiracy" and "unfairly prejudicial conduct" and wants damages.

UTB LLC, a company controlled by Prince Abdullah, wants declarations in respect of its rights under an investment and shareholders' agreement.

Mr McCabe's son Scott McCabe, who is also involved in the running of the club, told the judge he had been against the £1 million pitch being installed in 2015.

Scott McCabe said Prince Abdullah was behind the idea, but the club was in League One at the time and he thought the installation should have waited.

He said he should have forced a boardroom vote.

"It was a £1 million investment in the football pitch," he told the judge.

"We were in the third division of English football and we also had a good pitch."

He added: "With hindsight we should have had a vote."

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Lawyers representing Prince Abdullah said the new pitch had commercial benefits.

They also argued that there had been greater support for the idea than Scott McCabe was suggesting.

The club announced the installation of the pitch in a press release in May 2015.

"Pitch experts have begun work on the installation of a state-of-the-art Desso pitch, bringing to an end around 153 years of football being played on a traditional surface at the oldest professional football stadium in the world," the statement said.

"Desso GrassMaster is a sports playing field surface composed of natural grass combined with artificial fibres.

"The artificial grass fibres are injected 20cm (7.9in) deep, and cover about 3% of the surface. While the grass is growing, the roots intertwine with the artificial fibres.

"The designers claim this anchors the field to create a solid, even structure with good drainage and 'playing comfort'.

"Clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool all play on Desso pitches, whilst Wembley also has one. Reinforced natural grass can also be used for events and concerts. The artificial turf injection shortens the recovery time for the grass."

The hearing continues.

By Brian Farmer, Press Association