Wembley to be new stadium site

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The Independent Online

Wembley is expected to be confirmed as the site for the new national stadium today to bring an end to months of uncertainty.

The Football Association is set to make the announcement this afternoon, while the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, simultaneously confirms the news in the House of Commons.

The scheme has been on hold since 1 May when the FA pulled the plug on the deal, saying it could not underwrite the huge costs involved. It followed months of failed efforts to persuade City institutions to loan the FA the money.

After that, the Government appointed troubleshooter Patrick Carter to sort out the mess, and following a six-month review the FA appear to have stayed with the original design produced by the architect Lord Foster, with a huge "triumphant arch" replacing the Twin Towers.

The fact that the original design first announced in July 1999 is the chosen option will be a potential cause of embarrassment for the FA, Sport England and the Government, but they will point to several key changes. It is thought, for example, that to save money, plans for an expensive hotel and office complex have been removed. As importantly, the Australian construction company Multiplex has offered to provide much of the money required in return for some sort of lease agreement.

And while the Government will not provide any money directly for the scheme, it is understood they will help with the costs of transport infrastructure. The stadium and infrastructure changes are expected to cost more than £700m.

Carter's role has been to examine all the options – not least if the FA wanted to have a national stadium at all following the success of England playing at club grounds around the country.

Then there was the option of Birmingham, who made a forceful case for the stadium. However, the FA would have had to repay the £120m of Lottery money granted by Sport England to buy the Wembley site. With the re-sale value estimated at around a quarter of that, the FA would have been left with a bill that even the richest sport in the country could not afford.

Today's announcement should also include the possibility of the new stadium being used for athletics as well as football and rugby league. Technological advances have meant that a platform can now be built and removed in a matter of weeks, meaning a permanent running track is not necessary.

That will solve the dispute over the £20m the FA were ordered to repay when then Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, removed athletics from the design in December 1999. The move led to the Pickett's Lock affair, and the Government withdrawing London as the venue for the 2005 World Athletics Championships.

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