Wembley's new 'top' seats to cost up to £900

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The Independent Online

Wembley National Stadium, the company behind the ground's £660m rebuilding, is planning to charge up to £900 for corporate hospitality packages at top games to meet the project's mounting costs.

Wembley National Stadium, the company behind the ground's £660m rebuilding, is planning to charge up to £900 for corporate hospitality packages at top games to meet the project's mounting costs.

The revelation will raise concerns about the viability of a development likely to cost almost three times as much as initial estimates. The need for the extravagant ticket prices is demonstrated in projected figures showing the development's reliance on corporate hospitality income, which WNS forecasts will earn £40m a year once the new stadium is ready in 2004.

This represents almost 15 times the £2.8m Wembley now earns from it. It also constitutes almost two thirds of the forecast annual profit of £63.4m. The num- bers are in a document sent to potential lenders by Chase Manhattan, the investment bank aiming to raise the £410m of debt required to fund the rebuilding.

Chase has pledged to lend the project £50m, but is not underwriting the entire project.

The building of the new stadium is expected to begin next month The complex will boast restaurants, banqueting halls and retail facilities.

Chase and WNS spokesmen said the corporate hospitality forecasts were based on conservative assumptions. At present Wembley has less than 1,000 "premium" packages, but the new stadium will have more than 13,000, and corporate boxes will rise from 57 to 150.

A WNS spokesman said the big increase in premium seating would let the company increase revenue without raising prices. Packages will cost £199 to £899 a head depending on the event's stature. But WNS denied this would disadvantage ordinary fans. The planned overall capacity is 91,000 and it is a condition of the funding that at least 75,000 seats are sold at regular prices.

The company is owned by the Football Association but the English National Stadium Trust retains a veto thanks to its golden share.

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