Wembley Delay Hits Concerts

Few will be surprised by the confirmation that Wembley Stadium won’t be ready in time for soccer’s FA Cup Final, but now the delays might eat into the U.K. summer concert season.

The Football Association isn’t commenting on a February 19th story in The Observer that said the stadium’s first shows with Bon Jovi June 10-11 and Take That June 24-25 are also in jeopardy, but Cardiff Millennium manager Paul Sergeant told BBC’s Radio Five the Welsh venue will definitely be staging the soccer final.

As Multiplex was building the £757 million flagship venue for a fixed price, it has to swallow the estimated £120 million losses on the project. However, the FA and top U.K. concert promoters could also lose out as soccer matches and live shows are either shifted or canceled.

FA officials are “privately warning” that all 10 events scheduled to happen before August are in danger of being pulled, according to The Observer. The paper said the Community Shield match on August 13th might be the first sporting event, which would probably place the two Rolling Stones gigs on August 20th and 22nd as the first concerts.

That’s what Radio Five seemed to be thinking when it interviewed Stones agent John Giddings on its midday news bulletin February 21st to get his reaction to the band being the first live act at the new stadium. Robbie Williams would be next, with five shows slotted for November.

“We’ll be very happy to make even a little more history and we’ve been reassured that the building will be finished by then,” Giddings told Pollstar, explaining that he slotted the London shows for later in the tour because he’d been worried by the stream of newspaper stories reporting the delays.

The original handover date was January 31st, but that was postponed until March 31st as some of the work was stalled. Even optimistic estimates are now putting the likely date closer to the end of June.

England’s pre-World Cup friendly matches against Hungary May 30th and Jamaica June 3rd are expected to be held at Old Trafford in Manchester, while the three Football League playoff finals in late May will also be moved to Cardiff.

U.K. papers are saying the FA, which had been holding Cardiff on standby for at least four months, was forced to resort to Plan B when Australian developer Multiplex wasn’t able to give any sort of guarantee the building would be ready for the May 13th soccer match.

Multiplex is due to announce its latest financial figures on February 23rd and the U.K.media are now pitching its Wembley losses somewhere between £100 million and £200 million (US$350 million).

A catalogue of disputes with subcontractors, including a stand-off with its steel supplier and a row over money with the firm installing fire safety equipment, might have helped gobble up all the Australian developer’s profit. The rising price of steel alone has cost the company an estimated £90 million extra.

As early as last summer, the company warned that it was cutting its profit forecast by 28 percent to £71 million, but some financial analysts are saying the spiralling costs at Wembley might have swallowed all that up as well.

– John Gammon