Wembley And Multiplex Pitch Battle

Early reports suggest the legal battle over Wembley will last longer than it eventually takes to build the stadium as both sides have started a tit-for-tat round of claims and counterclaims.

Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL) is doubting Multiplex will complete the build by the revised September deadline, while the Australian developer is saying WNSL won’t finish its own work in time for next May’s FA Cup Final.

Most people in the U.K. have probably either forgotten or lost interest in the fact the original date for completion of the £757 million north London venue was August 2005. If Multiplex’s forecasts are correct, the project could well over-run by close to a couple of years.

Irrespective of whether the new Wembley hosts the 2007 soccer final, it looks certain to be the subject of a bitter slanging match.

“Whilst the stadium is well on the way to being finished and looks magnificent from the outside, Multiplex still has major items to complete,” WNSL chief exec Michael Cunnah said.

In an August 1st statement to the Sydney Stock Exchange, Multiplex said it has conducted its own analysis of the program to completion and, based on “the current state of WNSL’s preparedness,” it’s unlikely that the stadium will be able to hold a test event for 90,000 spectators before June 2007.

The much-maligned builder admitted it’s behind schedule with putting in the seating, which is perhaps an inevitable consequence of “the recent insolvency of the stadium seat subcontractor.” But it said even longer delays – for which it accepts no financial responsibility – are likely to be caused by the fact that WNSL hasn’t begun most (or completed any) of the jobs it needs to do to make the venue safe.

“Unless and until WNSL holds and successfully complete this series of test events, and obtain the required approvals, Multiplex will be prevented from achieving practical completion,” the Sydney Stock Exchange statement points out.

Rather more ominously, it concludes by saying, “Delays in the Client works give rise to entitlements in favor of Multiplex for extensions of time and financial entitlements.”

Although no one from the FA has been in touch with Cardiff Millennium Stadium regarding next year’s final, GM Paul Sergeant said he’s “holding” the date just in case.

“I’ve obviously marked May 19th and, if someone comes in for it, I’ll go to the Football Association and tell them that I’ve held them first refusal.”

This summer’s Wembley Stadium concerts from Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones, and Robbie Williams were canceled and promoters were forced to find alternate venues.

As for the financial claims and counterclaims bouncing between WNSL and Multiplex, the stadium owners have held back £38 million because the contractor is late delivering the building.

Multiplex wants £150 million because it claims the late delivery is down to WNSL for making more than 600 design changes since the job was started.

– John Gammon