Rock's off during the World Cup

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ROCK STARS and promoters are scheduling concerts to avoid this summer's World Cup in France because they fear that the mass global appeal of the tournament will affect ticket sales.

So far, Wembley Stadium, which has previously hosted the biggest names of modern music, including Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, The Rolling Stones and Tina Turner, does not have a single booking between 10 June and 12 July - the dates of the World Cup.

It appears that Wembley has learned from the drama of 1990, when the Rolling Stones played at Wembley the same night as England and Germany played their epic World Cup semi-final in Turin. Mick Jagger has admitted he considered cancelling the event but went ahead thinking England would not make it to the semi-final. On the night, most of the fans were tuned to radios or mini-televisions.

Wembley spokesman Martin Corrie said: "The US World Cup in 1994 highlighted the magnitude of the event. It had a huge impact in places such as New York and California, where the movers and shakers of the rock world tend to be."

He said Wembley was willing to listen to approaches for concerts during this year's World Cup. But the only bookings so far are Elton John and Billy Joel, who are performing the week before.

"I would have thought the market could sustain a show with stars of this magnitude," said Mr Corrie. "But you could take the view they are being kind to allow a fair number of the potential audience to enjoy both. A band that appeals to a female or teen audience would not face the same impact as other bands."

Rock promoters Midland Concert Promotions have taken a similar view. "We have more than 20 years' experience of organising concerts and we are fully aware of the consequences," said director Stuart Galbraith.

"We have decided to give the World Cup a miss. We know the key dates to try to avoid England fixtures. That doesn't mean less is going on, we will just put more on in May and at the end of July and in August. It would be foolhardy to hold a concert during an event that attracts mass media attention."

Promoter Harvey Goldsmith said he would avoid concerts on the days of the semi-finals and final. "It would be stupid to hold them then because a lot of people who aren't usually interested in football will suddenly want to watch the games."

One person fighting the tide is Bob Kelley, secretary general of the Music Industries Association. "We booked our annual Mad About Music Exhibition for 17 to 21 June at the London Arena. We didn't check the dates but, by chance, there are no key matches during that time. If need be, we would have put up huge screens for people who wanted to watch the games."

Opera lovers should note that Glyndebourne is staging Cosi Fan Tutte on 26 June, the day England play Colombia. The performance ends at 9.50pm - about the same time as the match. Rodelinda is scheduled for the evening of the final, 12 July.