Wembley plc's board ended months of speculation by putting pen to paper yesterday to pave the way for the pounds 320m project to build a new national stadium, which would form the centrepiece of the bid to host the 2006 World Cup.
Shareholders' approval is expected within the next month to seal the deal, which sees ownership of the stadium and adjoining land passing to the English National Stadium Development Company, a subsidiary of the FA. The future of the twin towers still has to be resolved and renovation work cannot start until at least next year, once the FA have obtained planning consent as well as the go-ahead from English Heritage to knock down a listed building.
The ENSDC chief executive, Bob Stubbs, who confirmed that the sale had been agreed, said: "I'm absolutely delighted. A new national stadium is crucial to the 2006 World Cup bid and as the FA will now own the stadium, all profits will be ploughed back into the game's grass roots."
A planning application is now due to be made this summer and the FA are hopeful that work can start on site early next year - even if that is several months behind their original schedule.
The deal also needs to be rubber-stamped by Wembley plc shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting within the next month or so.
The FA's acting executive director, David Davies, expressed his "delight" at the news, which was due to be confirmed to the Stock Exchange this morning. "This is clearly a huge boost to the 2006 campaign and... is a major milestone," said Davies.
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