New focus for Wembley

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The Independent Online

The new Wembley moved a small step closer to realisation yesterday when the Football Association announced an imminent streamlining of the subsidiary company charged with building it.

The 13 directors of Wembley National Stadium Limited will resign en masse before WNSL's next board meeting on 4 February and be replaced by a small "action" board, with eight or nine members, overseen by Adam Crozier, the FA's chief executive.

"We've known for about a year, during all the problems, that some things needed to change," a source close to the project said yesterday. "When the new board's in place, we'll have experts – from finance to construction – whose jobs it will be to go and get the stadium built, no more prevarication."

The current WNSL board includes its chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, who will also be the chairman of the new board. Other survivors of the revamp will include Crozier, plus, in all likelihood, Michael Cunnah, the finance director of the FA, and Clive Sherling, the chairman of the Football Licensing Authority. There is no certainty of places for the likes of the Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, the Premier League's chief executive, Dave Richards, or others from the wider game.

Two or three new faces will be brought on to the board, including someone with a successful track record in major building projects. Although Walker will chair the new board, Crozier will play a leading role in getting the £715m, 90,000-seat venue up and running.

"Over the next few weeks, the articles of the [WNSL] will be changed to allow the board to be restructured, at which point all of the directors will resign from the board," an FA statement said yesterday. "All parties, including all the directors, believe this to be the correct way forward."

Yesterday's announcement follows two reports into Wembley. One, by the Government appointee Patrick Carter, called for a restructuring of the board. The second, by the corporate troubleshooter David James, remains secret. It is known, however, that it was critical of the way in which the building company Multiplex was awarded the construction contract, and called for changes in the way WNSL is run.

Once the new board is in place it will start on the process of obtaining legally-binding agreements from Multiplex and the marketing company IMG, which will underwrite the cost of the "premium" seats. Once those have been obtained, demolition work on the old stadium can start. The FA confirmed over the weekend that it wants demolition started "within months".

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