Wembley's pitch for new stadium

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The owners of Wembley, the home of English football, yesterday highlighted the success of the Euro '96 championships to press their case for selection as the site of Britain's new national stadium.

Alan Coppin, chief executive of the Wembley group which also operates greyhound tracks in America , compared the almost trouble-free summer football fest with the transport problems, computer crashes and terrorist incidents that dogged the Olympics in Atlanta.

"We would hope that if you compared Euro '96, the third-largest sporting event in the world, with the world's largest sports event that took place in Atlanta the following month, that we came out better."

Wembley stadium, built in north London in the 1920s, is pitted against a rival bid from Manchester in the race to win up to pounds 100m of National Lottery money for a futuristic venue that could host the World Cup and Olympic Games.

The Sports Council has informed Wembley that a decision is expected by the end of the year.

Apart from Euro '96, which saw Wembley host six matches including the final, Mr Coppin also cited the stadium's capital city location as another reason its bid should succeed. "We are already the de facto national stadium," he added.

Around 65 per cent of the funding for Wembley's national stadium bid will come from the National Lottery with initiatives such as the sale of debentures and executive seats providing the rest.

Sir Norman Foster, the award-winning architect, has announced radical plans for the stadium including the repositioning of its famous twin towers and the capability for adding a retractable roof - a feature regarded as essential for any new outdoor, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex given the variable British weather.

But Mr Coppin said a recent visit to Holland to see the new Amsterdam Arena's sliding roof in action had left him unimpressed. Sir Norman's design, he added, was only notional: "If Wembley wins, the final design will be decided by an international architects' competition later next year."

Mr Coppin was speaking after Wembley announced a 72 per cent rise in operating profits to pounds 15.8m. Profits from Wembley Complex, which includes the stadium, rose to pounds 7.9m from pounds 3.4m. Euro '96 was responsible for only pounds 500,000 of the increase.

Wembley Arena benefited from hosting 72 concerts, up from 63 a year ago, while extra rental income lifted contributions from the conference and exhibition centre.

Profits from the Keith Prowse hospitality division increased to pounds 1m from pounds 400,000, due entirely to Euro '96.

Operating profits from UK greyhound tracks were unchanged at pounds 1.4m despite poor winter weather and competition from scratchcards.