Twin towers to move in Wembley revamp

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A pounds 160m scheme to build a new 83,000-seat Wembley stadium could spearhead a British bid for the World Cup in 2006, its backers claimed yesterday.

The futuristic plans, drawn up by leading architect Sir Norman Foster, will be seen by many as a haven for a new breed of "couch potatoes", with many seats having armrests, instant video replays on individual television screens and a push-button facility to order food.

His "visionary" plan - published the day after England's penalty shoot- out defeat by Germany - also involves removing the famous 2,000-ton twin towers from the stadium to make a separate feature, and realigning the pitch to run north/south.

Sir Norman said the stadium, which would be built in under two years, missing just one FA Cup final - in 1999 - could boast "the best facilities in the world".

The key question, however, is whether the project will be adopted by the Sports Council as the new English National Stadium and attract the pounds 100m lottery money that goes with it.

The decision, due in October, is a straight fight between London and Manchester. Yesterday, the owners of Wembley claimed that becoming the national stadium could be an important part of the English strategy to stage the World Cup in 10 years' time, as well as the 2008 or 2012 Olympics.

Alan Coppin, chief executive of Wembley plc, said: "We will try to convince (the Football Association) that a local bid should be made for 2006. We believe that we have everything necessary to attract such an event."

However, he denied that the long-term future of Wembley was in doubt if Manchester won the national stadium contest, saying. "We have contingency plans," he said.

The FA has yet to decide on a bid for the 2006 World Cup, but officials are keen after the success of Euro 96; and the Government has voiced support. Wednesday night's violence is thought unlikely to affect any bid.

Organisers of the Manchester bid privately hope that the decision to award the Millennium showcase events to Greenwich over Birmingham will encourage administrators to look outside the capital for another large- scale lottery project.

Spokesman Graham Stringer said their pounds 125m scheme for east Manchester was at a more advanced stage of planning and, unlike the Wembley bid, did not involve lottery money benefiting a private company.