Plan is revived two years after it was shelved

Click to follow

We've heard it all before and it ended in procrastination and farce. But the Football Association insisted yesterday that it is committed to a new national stadium at Wembley that will be "one of the finest, if not the finest, in the world".

On an afternoon of déjà vu, Adam Crozier, the FA's chief executive, confirmed that football's ruling body wants a national stadium, that it can be commercially viable, that the partnerships are in place to make it happen and that Wembley is the preferred site.

The FA hopes to rubber-stamp all this within four months and, after a 39-month build time, have its new showpiece venue ready before the summer of 2005.

The specifics of the edifice are familiar, but then this should be no surprise. Take away a hotel, an office block and a visitor centre and they are almost identical to the plans previously ditched for being too costly and unsuitable for athletics.

Designed by the World Stadium Team, led by Lord Foster of Thames Bank, the new venue will have 90,000 seats providing "unrivalled leg room, comfort and sight lines". It will take the form of a bowl-shaped arena and apparently retain the old stadium's acoustics and atmosphere.

Its occupants will have the choice of 2,000 lavatories (more than any building in the world), eat in a 2,000-seat banqueting hall (the biggest permanent dining facility in London) and travel home via a new Tube station at Wembley Park or a direct road link to the North Circular.

Spectators might even be able to watch a game of football, when not marvelling at the building's principal architectural feature, an arch 133 metres high and visible for miles around.

There are a few modif-ications to the old design. The previous one included a removable platform for an athletics track that would take six months and £23m to install whenever required. The timeframe has somehow been cut to four weeks and the cost to £5m per time thanks to a "prefab system", which has not been revealed in detail.

The highest previous estimate for the design was £660m. The new stadium will cost £715m. This includes all construction and fit-out costs (£358m), plus the land, the infrastructure and financing repayments.

The FA has committed £100m, Sport England has already given £120m, the Government will give £20m towards the infrastructure and the Greater London Authority another £20m. The rest will be provided by the Australian building company Multiplex, or be underwritten by IMG, a sports marketing group, which will manage the sale of 15,000 premium seats.

This arrangement differs from previously in that the FA will bear little risk with the construction costs. Mr Crozier said he was "cautiously optimistic" about Wembley's future but there "was always a risk" the project could fall through. He added that success now rested on the confirmation that all parties could deliver as promised.

"We believe we have a very good chance of making this succeed." He predicts annual profits from the stadium for the FA of "£10m-£20m" within five years of construction. If it happens, that is.

Comments