Wembley Settles On Score Draw

A weekend report in the U.K.’s The Observer said Wembley Stadium owners and the Australian developer building the new venue have settled their differences and the stadium will be open for next year’s FA Cup Final.

Last-ditch negotiations have resolved the situation and Multiplex is confident of completion early in the new year, according to The Observer.

If it’s true, the Football Association (FA), which owns the venue, and Multiplex are so far keeping this surprising news up their sleeves.

Last reports had both parties ready to slug it out in High Court, with each filing claims and counterclaims over hundreds of millions of pounds in disputed costs.

As recently as a month ago, The Daily Telegraph revealed that Multiplex may not even hand over the keys to the stadium until it had seen some money from the FA.

The solution, according to The Observer, is that the FA has agreed to pay Multiplex an additional £70 million on top of the originally agreed fixed price of £458 million. Including the purchase of the land, stamp duty and a welter of sundry costs, the bill for the 90,000-seat stadium is probably pushing past £800 million.

The FA has always insisted that the delays in building the stadium, which have been going on for the last four years, are entirely down to Multiplex.

However, with the banks now due about £40 million of the £434 million they’ve lent for the project and with no revenue streams on the horizon until the building is finished, the FA looks to have become increasingly desperate to get the job done.

In a deal that looks designed to ensure both parties emerge with what’s still left of their public credibility, it seems Multiplex will immediately hand back half of that £70 million as compensation for its part in the delays, which resulted in the 2006 Cup Final being shifted to Cardiff Millennium Stadium.

In soccer terms, the result should go down as a score draw. Wembley National Stadiums – the FA subsidiary that owns and runs the venue – and Multiplex can at least avoid wasting further time and money on a prolonged legal battle that Justice Jackson has already said will be better sorted out by mediation or negotiation.

It’s also good news for any soccer fans that haven’t already become indifferent to these dragged-out and much-reported issues. And for Multiplex shareholders, the Aussie builder will probably drop about £150 million on the job, but spending months in London’s High Court could have soon added to that.

Possibly to avoid a similar scenario, the new showpiece stadium for the 2012 London Olympics will be built by a British company.

The job’s going to the McAlpine group, which built the main stadium for the 2000 Sydney Games and Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium.

In sharp contrast to Wembley, the Arsenal ground – beside the northeast rail line just outside of London’s King Cross station – was completed in two years and within budget.

The Olympic stadium, an 80,000-seater projected to cost between £295 million (US$550 million) and £395 million (US$735 million), will host track and field at the Summer Games as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

After the Olympics, there are plans to reduce the capacity to 25,000 and turn the site into a track and field stadium.

– John Gammon