Will Wembley be Sky Dome?
Sunday 19 December 1999
With everyone now getting their Twickers in a twist over Wembley - the unseemly scrum continues with an abundance of rucking, mauling and stamping now that the home of rugby has entered the lists as an improbable alternative venue for athletics and the Olympics - it is now evident that the Ken Bates' football faction has won. But any imminent victory may yet prove to be more Pyrrhic than profitable. The Football Association, now set to be sole mine hosts at the refurbished hostelry will have to find upwards of £400m to to pay for the privilege as the original Lottery money, or at least £20m of it, is forcibly withdrawn and costs escalate. Despite the assertion of Bates that 18 banks are queuing up to put their money into the project, City insiders say that knees are knocking as the wretched row rages on. The concern expressed by the Football League chairman Peter Middleton about how the FA will also find the £50m a year needed to service the Wembley debt has not helped. "There is a huge
With everyone now getting their Twickers in a twist over Wembley - the unseemly scrum continues with an abundance of rucking, mauling and stamping now that the home of rugby has entered the lists as an improbable alternative venue for athletics and the Olympics - it is now evident that the Ken Bates' football faction has won. But any imminent victory may yet prove to be more Pyrrhic than profitable. The Football Association, now set to be sole mine hosts at the refurbished hostelry will have to find upwards of £400m to to pay for the privilege as the original Lottery money, or at least £20m of it, is forcibly withdrawn and costs escalate. Despite the assertion of Bates that 18 banks are queuing up to put their money into the project, City insiders say that knees are knocking as the wretched row rages on. The concern expressed by the Football League chairman Peter Middleton about how the FA will also find the £50m a year needed to service the Wembley debt has not helped. "There is a huge amount of money to be raised and no equity given," Middleton, himself a former merchant banker, says. The reality is that the FA will be hard put to find the cash from investors,and may be forced cut back on some of Lord Foster's elegant if grandiose plans. If this proves to be so then what price a helping hand-in-the-pocket from that well-known football benefactor Rupert Murdoch. Word has it that he would love to plunge his fingers into the Wembley pie in order to associate the BSkyB television empire with the project, alongside the stakes he has acquired in various Premiership clubs, though hopefully he would stop short of insisting it be re-named the Sky Dome. Alternatively the FA might consider asking the Premiership for a sub from the £1bn plus that Murdoch is expected to pay next time for exclusive TV rights.
Lewis the knight owl
Speculation abounds that the newly crowned undisputed world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis is to be knighted in the new year. It may seem a bit far-fetched, not to say premature, but it is just the populist thing our bandwagonning Prime Minister might endorse. Proclaiming Lewis as Britain's first black sporting knight, and certainly the first to be dubbed in dreadlocks. would enhance the Blair street cred. Lewis himself certainly seems to have heard the rumours, if nothing else. "Who knows,if it comes,I will definitely welcome it," he replied when asked about the possibility in a TV interview. Whether such an accolade would be popular among the sportswriting fraternity is open to question. Lewis failed to turn up to receive his Sportsman of the Year award at the annual bash of the Sports Writers' Association on Monday morning and also missed the subsequent lunch arranged in his honour by the Boxing Writers' Club, some of whom had travelled from the provinces. His manager Frank Maloney told the put-out scribes the fighter had flu, but a hangover seems the more plausible explanation for the double snub. Lewis had shown up the night before for the obviously more prestigious BBC TV awards but was later observed seen partying until dawn with Manchester United players who, true to form, also failed to put in an appearance at the SWA function for their team of the year award. No show? More like bad show.
No place for Banks
Another notable absentee from the sportswriters' Cafe Royal function was Tony Banks, the former Minister for Sport. Organisers wanted to invite him in his capacity as 2006 World Cup bid envoy but received the broadest of hints from ministry officials that if they asked Banks they were unlikely to have then pleasure of the company of the present Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey. "If that's true, it's pathetic," said Banks. "I can only assume that Kate knew nothing about it." However it is no secret that the two are not on each other's Christmas card list, and theirs might have been an uncomfortable pairing on the top table. At least the occasion gave Hoey the opportunity to reinforce her views about the scatty idea of a raised platform track at Wembley. "It's nice to be on platform where I can actually see everybody," she told the assembly from the podium.
Campbell soups up school sport
The appointment of the formidable Sue Campbell, director of the Youth Sport Trust, as special adviser to both the sports and education ministries on school sport and PE issues is a progressive development which suggests there is a now genuine determination at Westminster to improve the quality of sporting education at its most basic level. It also suggests that Ms Campbell, 51, is destined for high office in sports administration, perhaps as eventual successor to the out-of-favour Derek Casey, chief executive of Sport England, who is known to be unhappy at having taken most of the flak over the Wembley debacle.
Royal seal of disapproval
We are assured there is no truth in suggestions that the Princess Royal either voted against, or abstained from, all 50 proposals for reforming the Olympic movement in Lausanne last week. She certainly did disapprove of a ban on IOC members visiting bidding cities because, mistakenly, she was under the impression it would prevent her watching any sporting event in that city. But HRH's open disenchantment with the way the International Olympic Committee is run by Juan Antonio Samaranch is such that it surely cannot be long before she hands over the reins as one of Britain's two IOC members to another former Olympian, though word has it that she would prefer it not to be the ubiquitous Sebastian Coe.
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