Wembley Won’t Open Until 2007

Within 24 hours of admitting that Wembley Stadium in London won’t be ready in time for June’s Bon Jovi and Take That shows, the Football Association (FA) has finally lost patience with stadium developers Multiplex and announced that the venue won’t open at all in 2006.

After the Australian builder produced a revised construction schedule that said the completion date is likely to be in September, the FA released a statement saying, “We do not want to set deadlines on when the stadium will open and be faced with the constant speculation surrounding this as we approach individual fixtures.

“Therefore, we believe it is important that we are transparent with our plans.”

Stadium chief exec Michael Cunnah also told BBC Radio FiveLive that it was time for some “transparency” and said the opening date will not be announced until “we have 100 percent certainty from Multiplex.”

The developer immediately countered, saying it wasn’t “100 percent responsible” for the problem and its contract entitled it to extend the completion date because there had been so many design changes since construction work began.

It also said it isn’t obliged to pay any more compensation or penalty clauses, which means the financial responsibility for the delays is likely to be the subject of a lengthy legal battle.

Newswires also reported Cunnah saying, “Multiplex’s revised schedule means WNSL has no alternative but to announce no major events will take place at the stadium for the remainder of this year.”

Multiplex said most of the work will be completed by the end of June, but the FA and WNSL would still need another two to three months to fit out the interior before it can be opened to the public.

The latest announcements mean the Community Shield soccer match slotted for August 13th, the European Nations’ Cup qualifiers against Andorra September 2nd and Macedonia October 7th will have to be moved, along with two Rolling Stones and five Robbie Williams shows.

John Giddings from Solo, the Stones’ European agent, immediately said the act would play London’s Twickenham Park the same days the Wembley shows were scheduled, August 20th and 22nd.

The August 26th Rugby League Challenge Cup will also be moved to Twickenham, which is the home of the Rugby Football Union.

The Bon Jovi and Take That shows have already been moved to Milton Keynes Bowl.

A day before it was confirmed that Wembley won’t open in 2006, Giddings was critical of the delays.

“How ever London is going to get the Olympics together for 2012 is absolutely beyond me,” he told Pollstar. “It’s become a national disgrace. We laughed when we saw the Greeks trying to get venues together for the last Olympics but, in comparison to us, they didn’t really do too badly, did they?”

Although the Bon Jovi and Take That shows in June have looked unlikely to happen for the last six weeks, the five sold-out Robbie Williams shows in September haven’t appeared in jeopardy until the last couple of weeks.

In that time, work stopped for a day when a roof girder collapsed, there has been concern that the sewers underneath the £757 million building are already caving in, and 120 steelworkers, welders and scaffolders have been laid off because the subcontractor claims it can’t pay them until developer Multiplex comes up with the money it owes.

At press time, Williams’ agent, Ian Huffam from X-Ray Touring , was talking with the act’s management regarding the rescheduling.

A management statement said, “Alternative arrangements for Robbie’s Wembley dates are being made and an announcement as to the venue will be made as soon as the details are confirmed.”

In Williams’ case, Twickenham doesn’t look to be an option. The venue is in a built-up residential area and only has permission to stage three live music events per year.

– John Gammon