Watching the painting process rather than the match became the focus of a recent soccer championship in Canada.
It wasn’t weather or broadcast technical difficulties that delayed the start of the first game of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference Championship—it was a painting error on the field.
It seems the penalty box lines had been painted too narrowly, but stadium officials didn’t notice the problem until after player warm-ups for the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC game last week, sports news site Deadspin reported.
By that time, teams had to return to the locker rooms and wait nearly 40 minutes for the old lines to be covered over, new lines painted on to meet regulation size, and the fresh coat of paint to dry.
Painting Over, Adding New Lines
According to CBS Sports, the lines were put down two yards too far in on each side on the field at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, so grounds crews pulled out the spray paint to cover the old lines with green paint, and equipment was brought out to put down the new lines.
A crowd of more than 61,000 spectators reportedly cheered the worker who came on to the field 17 minutes after the scheduled kickoff to repaint the lines with a push-machine, Canada’s CBC Sports reported.
The painter was followed by a man operating equipment to dry the newly laid paint.
"We're somewhat embarrassed," Impact owner Joey Saputo told ESPN.
"We have to take responsibility for it," he added. "It's unfortunate it has happened."
Impact games are usually held at the nearby Saputo Stadium, but the team has used Olympic Stadium for big games, CBC Sports said.
Fun for the Next Game
The saga didn’t end there.
With the teams to meet again Toronto’s BMO Field this week, grounds crews were hard at work with removable paint, top sand and green pigment to convert what had been a football gridiron three days earlier into a soccer pitch, the Toronto Star reported Wednesday (Nov. 30).
Head groundskeeper Robert Heggie acknowledged that there could still be signs of the football lines if a “real nitpicker” took a close look, but added that, although his crew could have scrubbed away the existing paint a third time, they realized they had actually begun to pull up grass.
“What’s more important, aesthetic or playability?” Heggie said. “Playability should be more important. We don’t want to remove all of the grass just to get rid of the paint.”
And importantly, the six and 18-yard boxes, “are in particularly good shape,” Heggie said, adding that he’d leave measuring tapes out for the referees to verify the measurements.
Still, Heggie’s crew took a moment to have a little fun with Montreal’s grounds crew, tweeting a photo measuring tape across one of the field’s white lines with the caption, “44 yards... 132 feet... … measure twice, paint once.”
TFC defeated the Impact 5-2 on that field Wednesday night (Nov. 30) and 7-5 on aggregate, the CBC reported, to advance to the MLS Cup final.
Toronto will next host the Seattle Sounders on Dec. 10.