Wembley Builder One Up In Legal Game

Wembley stadium builder Multiplex won the first leg of its legal match with U.K. steel contractors Cleveland Bridge when High Court referee Justice Jackson ruled in its favor in what will probably be the first of many clashes.

It was a very narrow victory for the Australian construction conglomerate, which won the match on the grounds that Cleveland had committed a foul by walking off the Wembley pitch in August 2004.

In his summing up, Judge Jackson wasn’t giving any clues about which side would be in front at the end of the litigation.

Having ruled on 10 preliminary legal issues designed to break the stalemate between the two, he urged both sides to try to reach an overall financial settlement by mediation or negotiation.

If that’s not possible, then Multiplex, which wants £45 million in damages, and Cleveland – which is counter-claiming £25 million – will have another expensive visit to London High Court’s Technology and Construction division.

The Sydney-based developer, which still hasn’t given any clues as to when it’s likely to actually finish the job in question, accused the Darlington-based steel constructor of being slow and shoddy in its work.

Cleveland, which made the 440-foot arch over the 90,000-seat venue, said Multiplex kept changing the design and had a plan known as “Operation Armageddon” to get another, cheaper contractor in.

The Operation Armageddon plan, previously unheard of among football’s 4-2-4s and 4-4-2s, was also said to involve driving Cleveland into bankruptcy and thereby avoiding paying what it owed it.

Having clinched the first match as a result of Cleveland scoring an own goal by walking off, Multiplex lawyers are now said to be looking for some interim payments toward the company’s costs.

– John Gammon