Completion of new Wembley faces delays

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The Independent Football

Wembley officials have privately conceded that a grand opening for the 2003 FA Cup final is almost certainly a non-starter.

Wembley officials have privately conceded that a grand opening for the 2003 FA Cup final is almost certainly a non-starter.

Frantic discussions are underway with construction companies interested in taking over the contract for building the new stadium after Wembley National Stadium Ltd was unable to reach agreement over a final figure with Bovis Multiplex, which had initially been awarded the contract.

Demolition work on the old stadium is due to begin in November, the month after England's World Cup qualifier with Germany, even though the ground will not now house the 2006 World Cup final.

Despite the ongoing problems, WNSL remains confident that the actual cost will not rise beyond the £600m figure it has been working on throughout the process of negotiation with Brent Council and Chase Manhattan Bank, the organisation charged with raising the majority of funds from the City of London.

Though WNSL argues that the problem will take less than a month to resolve, the timescale for the 2003 FA Cup final was already tight and it is now almost impossible that it will be met.

Despite earlier denials, it also seems certain that the cost of the whole project will rise beyond £1bn once interest payments on loans have been taken into account. That figure could increase even further if WNSL is unable to secure a construction contract for a similar sum to that which Bovis had originally agreed but felt it could not meet.

Although WNSL refuses to state which companies are involved in negotiation to take on the building work, it is understood that the likely victor may not be British-based. "We are talking to other parties and while we are not prepared to say who they are, we are confident that a deal can be concluded within the next few weeks," said WNSL communications director Chris Palmer. "We feel we have a very accurate price for building the new stadium which we feel stands up to robust inspection."

England have dropped one place in the latest Fifa world rankings, despite their impressive draw with the World and European champions, France. Kevin Keegan's side are now ranked 14th while Scotland remain in 22nd after their late World Cup qualifying win in Latvia. The Republic of Ireland also stay unchanged in 38th position and Northern Ireland rise two places to 96th.

Wales have slumped 10 places to 113th after their World Cup defeat in Belarus and are ranked behind countries such as Vietnam and Azerbaijan.

FIFA WORLD RANKINGS: 1 Brazil 818pts; 2 France 807; 3 Argentina 752; 4 Czech Republic 746; 5 Spain 740; 6 Italy 725; 7 Portugal 724; 8 Yugoslavia 714; 9 Germany 712; 10 Netherlands 710. Selected: 14 England 682, 22 Scotland 631, 38 Republic of Ireland 565, 96 Northern Ireland 425, 113 Wales 361.