Football: Wembley may lose foreign deal

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The Independent Online
WEMBLEY International, the overseas management arm of Wembley plc, which has just announced the sale of Wembley Stadium, is in danger of losing its largest foreign contract as moves have started to end its agreement to manage Hong Kong's 40,000 seater sports stadium.

Wembley won the contract, against strong competition, in March 1994, helping the parent company when its fortunes were at their lowest ebb. However the contract has proved to be something of a nightmare and from the first day there have been problems with the pitch.

The owners of the stadium, the local urban council, said they were giving Wembley a "last chance" to get the pitch right six months ago. Ambrose Cheung, the chairman of the company which owns the stadium, said yesterday, "we thought we achieved a basis of understanding. We are being let down and we are disappointed by that".

The company is looking into ways of terminating Wembley's 10-year contract. Fred Li, a board member, said that court action was being considered.

The stadium is best known as the home of the Hong Kong International Rugby Sevens. However, when Manchester United played there last August, an official complaint was made about the state of the pitch.

Desperate to drum up business, Wembley tried to use the stadium for concerts. This soon degenerated into farce after noise complaints. At one concert pop fans were issued with gloves to dull their clapping. There was no response yesterday from Wembley's Hong Kong operations director, Marcus Carling.

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