FA insists Wembley delays will not jeopardise funds

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The Independent Football

Fears that the Football Association's coffers could take a direct hit from the latest delay to the new Wembley were being played down inside Soho Square last night, with a source claiming the FA was "ring-fenced" from any potential financial fallout.

The venue's Australian contractor, Multiplex, insists that it alone is not responsible for the overruns that will prevent the stadium being open for business before 2007 and it has no plans to pay financial penalties of £140,000 per day for being late. Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL), the FA subsidiary that will operate the venue, is equally insistent that it will receive the money. "In the worst-case scenario that WNSL goes belly-up, the FA is ring-fenced," the FA source said. "That's why WNSL was set up this way."

In other words, while it was two FA chief executives who negotiated the financing package of £433m in loans for the stadium - Adam Crozier, who put the initial deals in place, then Mark Palios, who tweaked them - the money is actually owed by WNSL as a separate entity. Any default of payments, due to start this year, will not impinge on FA budgets, the source said. There had been concern that grassroots investment might suffer it the FA was hit with a bill for Wembley.

Michael Cunnah, WNSL's chief executive, gave the strongest indication yet that his company are prepared for a legal fight, if necessary, to make Multiplex cover any WNSL losses due to delays.

"The financial issues are between ourselves and Multiplex," he said. "We have a fixed price contract that we are happy to rely upon. We would reject any Multiplex claims to the contrary."

The sports minister, Richard Caborn, said he was "concerned and disappointed" by the Wembley débâcle. He added: "But I know when it is completed it will be absolutely magnificent and regarded as the best stadium in the world."

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