England beat Germany to book a place at Earls Court

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The Independent Online

The World Cup has not even started yet but already it's England 1, Germany 0. The organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair were left fuming yesterday after a rival British company stole the right to stage the London Book Fair from under their noses.

It was perhaps not quite as controversial as Geoff Hurst's did-the-ball-cross-the-line goal 40 years ago at the old Wembley, but it still left the Germans crying foul play.

Until Wednesday, Ausstellungs und Messe, the organisers of the Frankfurt fair, assumed they had pulled off a coup by gaining the right to stage the London Book Fair at Earls Court next April. They had agreed commercial terms with Earls Court & Olympia Venues earlier this month and had even received a contract in the post. So confident were they that a press release was issued trumpeting their success.

But yesterday the rival organiser Reed Exhibitions, part of Reed Elsevier, nipped in Michael Owen-style to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Reed announced that it, and not the Germans, would be hosting the event having signed an agreement with Earls Court to switch the fair back to west London from Docklands.

Alistair Burtenshaw, the group exhibition director of the London Book Fair, said: "Following Frankfurt's announcement on May 5 to launch their own book fair at Earls Court we approached Earls Court and were able to negotiate and formalise an immediate deal. We hope this announcement will now eliminate the confusion and concerns that have existed since Frankfurt's announcement last week."

Frankfurt's views of the negotiating style of Earls Court & Olympia Venues were unprintable. But Jeremy Probert, a spokesman for Earls Court, said: "Do you see the words 'signed an agreement' anywhere on the Frankfurt press release?"

He added: "Obviously, we are sorry to disappoint the Germans but we do have a long- standing relationship with Reed Exhibitions."

Will the England team be saying sorry to their German counterparts in Berlin on 9 July? One thing's for certain - there would be no shortage of books about it.