Wembley delays bring down chief

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of Wembley stadium, Michael Cunnah, has paid the price for the delays, embarrassments and cost overruns that have plagued the project with his job.

Cunnah has been eased out after four years in the position, and will be leaving Wembley National Stadium Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Football Association, today. The FA group finance director, Alex Horne, will assume his responsibilities.

Cunnah's departure had been widely anticipated ever since, earlier this year, Wembley were forced to scrap plans to hold the 2006 FA Cup final at the new stadium. The FA's chief executive, Brian Barwick, said: "Michael has made a hugely significant contribution to the development of the new Wembley Stadium project - we would like to thank him for all his hard work and wish him well in the future."

The cost of the stadium rose to £793m after the FA was forced to agree an extra £36m payment to the builders Multiplex in October. The company is expected to hand over the keys in February before a series of events leading to the official opening for the FA Cup final on 19 May.

"I am proud and delighted to have helped bring the Wembley dream to reality," Cunnah said in a statement. "It has been a privilege to assemble a dedicated team of people whose hard work, commitment and loyalty have brought Wembley Stadium to life. The stadium is now virtually complete and looks magnificent."

An FA spokesman refused to comment when asked if Cunnah had been sacked - but it is understood the change was agreed by all the stakeholders involved, including the Government and Sport England. They will look to appoint a managing director for the stadium in the new year.

Wembley is now moving out of the construction phase into the operational phase - plans to stage a concert in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, in July were announced this week.

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