Football: FA's threat to take games away from Wembley

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The Independent Online
WEMBLEY, an institution revered throughout the world if not entirely appreciated by all those who spectate from its stands, could be about to lose the FA Cup final and England internationals. The Football Association has threatened to play its showpiece matches elsewhere unless the current contract, which runs until 2002, is renegotiated.

The FA's complaint, triggered by Wembley's separate negotiations with potential sponsors and advertisers, is that it receives no money from perimeter hoardings, programme sales, refreshments, bars or car parking. It also gets only around one-third of the gate receipts and television contracts.

Trevor Phillips, the FA's commercial director, said: 'We mean business. We have told them we are preparing to walk.' The destination could either be Old Trafford or Twickenham.

The FA Cup final has been played at Wembley since 1923 and it has also hosted international matches for 70 years. England were to use Wembley as their home ground during the 1996 European Championship finals, but that may now be under threat.

David Bloomfield, the FA spokesman, said: 'We think the contract is unfair as it stands but it is not our style to rip up contracts. We hope common sense will prevail and it will be reviewed.'

The Wembley chairman, Sir Brian Wolfson, said: 'Wembley has a contract with the FA to the year 2002 and it intends to honour that contract in every detail. We are partners with the FA and believe that our conversations should be conducted across the board table rather than through the media.'

Old Trafford has also been mooted and the Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, said yesterday: 'England would be very welcome and if we do become the international home it would help to enable us to speed up the plans to enlarge the stadium.'

The Football League is considering moving the entire Endsleigh League First Division programme from Saturday to Sunday on the last day of the campaign. The change is planned so that, with promotion and relegation issues likely to be hanging in the balance, clubs whose games are televised on Sunday will not have an unfair advantage over those playing the previous day.

Alan Ball, the Southampton manager, yesterday paid pounds 250,000 for the Swindon striker, Craig Maskell.

Newcastle are trying to sign the Feyenoord central defender, Ulrich van Gobbel. The Rotterdam club value the

23-year-old Dutch international at pounds 1.3m, some pounds 600,000 more than Newcastle have so far offered.

One defender who did move yesterday was Dundee United's John Clark, who joined Stoke City for pounds 150,000.

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