The Football Association is facing up to the prospect of Wembley stadium not being completed in time to stage England's World Cup finals send-off against Jamaica after the governing body warned their Caribbean counterparts that the friendly on 3 June may have to be played at an alternative venue.
The match is scheduled as the third of three friendlies that England will play in the run-up to their departure for Germany in June but there is still no guarantee that the £757m stadium will be ready in time. The FA have to rely on builders Multiplex to deliver the stadium by then and, on advice, have told the Jamaicans that, should the stadium not be completed, they will play the game at an alternative venue - probably Old Trafford.
Yesterday the FA disclosed the final matches in Sven Goran Eriksson's side's preparation for the World Cup. The full programme now includes games at Wembley against Hungary on 30 May and Jamaica four days later and an earlier match against Uruguay at Anfield on 1 March. That match pre-dates Wembley's proposed completion date but might not yet be the last home game the national team plays away from its new stadium.
Crenston Boxhill, the president of the Jamaican FA, said that his English FA counterparts had told him that it was "all systems go" for Wembley but provisions had been made in case the stadium was not ready. "They are rooting for Wembley but they also pointed out that there might be a shift in venue if, for whatever reason, it is not available," he said. "They said it was their responsibility to find another venue."
The FA chief executive Brian Barwick has been open about the governing body's plans to book the Millennium Stadium as an alternative venue should the ground not be ready for the FA Cup final on 13 May.
The latest set-back to hit the project has been the building of a pedestrian walkway which has been delayed by four months because of a dispute between Wembley National Stadium Ltd and the company that owns the land around the site. The delay has put at risk the formal handover of Wembley to the FA which is due to take place on 31 March in order to allow time for trial events ahead of the FA Cup final.
The three friendlies against South American, European and Caribbean have been organised in order to give England the right preparation ahead of their World Cup finals group stage matches against Paraguay, Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica will field many players who play their club football in England, including Ricardo Gardner of Bolton, Bradford's Donovan Ricketts, Marlon King of Watford and Claude Davies of Preston.
Boxhill said: "The game has added significance because it's England's last match prior to the World Cup finals and it will also be a great honour for Jamaica to be one of the first teams to play at Wembley. It promises to be a wonderful occasion. Most definitely this is a very good Jamaican side and we should not be judged on our last match [a 5-0 defeat to Australia in October at Craven Cottage].
"For that game we only got the squad together 48 hours before the game and our coach only had one training session with the players. This time we will get to England a lot earlier and make sure we get in a couple of training sessions."
The FA will allocate 9,000 seats to Jamaica fans and the Jamaican FA's proceeds from the game will be used for a youth development programme.
England's friendly match run-up to World Cup: 1 March: v Uruguay (Anfield); 30 May: v Hungary (Wembley, tbc); 3 June: v Jamaica (Wembley, tbc).Reuse content