Wembley not ready for 2007 Cup final, says Multiplex

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The split between the Football Association and Wembley's builders has become a major fissure after serious disagreements emerged over the completion date of the £757m stadium.

The FA and its stadium operator Wembley National Stadium Ltd still believe the ground will be ready for the new season's FA Cup final, and perhaps even an England friendly on 7 February. The Australian construction firm Multiplex, who is challenging in court penalty charges of £120,000 per day for late completion, is trying to apportion blame for delays to WNSL and has suggested the stadium will not be ready until June 2007.

In the latest development in the saga, the WNSL chief executive, Michael Cunnah, has accused Multiplex of "deliberately confusing" the issues over its claim that it cannot complete Wembley until after WNSL has held test events there. The stadium operator insists these events will be carried out after Multiplex has handed over the stadium.

In effect, both sides are trying to avoid blame for the series of delays that have dogged the project. At stake are the £120,000 penalty charges that Multiplex is liable for every day over the deadline of 31 January this year. Should that completion really not take place until June, that could mean up to £75m, though the matter will be settled in court.

Work must be completed on the roof, drainage and safety systems, and 10,000 of the 90,000 seats still need to be installed. While the handover was due to be on 31 January, Multiplex's last deadline was September.

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