World Cup campaigners confident despite Wembley row

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The Independent Online

England's 2006 World Cup bid team is confident that the problem over the plans for the redevelopment of Wembley will prove to be nothing more than a "hiccup".

England's 2006 World Cup bid team is confident that the problem over the plans for the redevelopment of Wembley will prove to be nothing more than a "hiccup".

The Government has ordered a review of the plans because it does not feel there is sufficient provision for athletics in the new stadium. Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has set a deadline of 15 December for the planners to come up with a solution that accommodates football and athletics.

Alec McGivan, director of the 2006 bid, played down the problem. "There's always been a slight tension about the athletics issue, but then people say how often will it be used as an athletics stadium? Once for the world championships and once possibly for the Olympics. Obviously we've got to give that consideration, but at the end of the day it's a football stadium and that's primarily what it should be."

Bob Stubbs, the Wembley National Stadium chief executive, reiterated his belief that the government report into the proposals for the new stadium was "fundamentally flawed".

Speaking on Talk Radio's Tony Banks' Sporting Lunch programme, Stubbs said: "It [the Ellerbe Becket report] benchmarks us against Sydney and suggests that there is a seating standard for the Olympics. There is no standard - Sydney's seats are much bigger than any football stadium's in this country. Our seats will be the biggest in Europe in terms of a football stadium."

Stubbs went on to say he was confident his team would be able to demonstrate that the report was inaccurate by the December deadline.

He said: "We only saw the report two hours before Chris Smith made the statement to the House and before he made that statement we told him it was fundamentally flawed and wanted the chance to respond."

Banks told listeners the situation was "deeply, deeply worrying". David Moorcroft, the chief executive of UK Athletics, expressed his concern about the dispute between Wembley Stadium architects and those behind the damning Government report.

Moorcroft, who phoned in to Banks' radio show, said: "Two sets of the world's most eminent architects seem to be disagreeing. The Ellerbe Becket report casts great doubt on the chances of World Championships or Olympics being held there."

Moorcroft, however, is optimistic that if the proposed raised platform track works, as included in Wembley National Stadium's design, then a bid for the 2005 World Athletics Championships could be successful.

Moorcroft said: "The architects need to come up with design answers over whether the platform works or doesn't work. There are two conflicting reports. Which one does athletics believe?

"Bob Stubbs is confident those questions can be answered. I think they will be answered and when we bid [for the world championships] in January we will know that the bid will not only be successful but will take place in a stadium that isn't just a compromise for athletics, but is ideal."