Saracens may share new venue

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The Independent Online

Saracens rugby union club emerged yesterday as a potential tenant of the proposed new stadium at Picketts Lock, Edmonton, which will form the centrepiece of London's bid for the 2005 World Championships.

As bid officials unveiled details of the likely stadium design ahead of Monday's final presentation to the International Amateur Athletic Federation Council in Paris, there were indications that the club could become a joint user of the facilities.

Although a Saracens spokesman denied that any official approaches had been made by the bid organisers since Picketts Lock was selected as London's venue on Friday, key members of the group who will travel to France this weekend spoke of the potential advantages of having a rugby club on site on a long-term basis to help meet revenue costs.

Saracens have shared Watford FC's Vicarage Road ground for two years but they retain links - and a training ground - near the Picketts Lock site and have not ruled out the possibility of moving to a larger venue, perhaps even with their current hosts.

"We have had a very happy arrangement at Vicarage Road and we have developed a good fan base in the area, but Watford and ourselves are always looking to possible sites and you can never say never," Mark Evans, Saracens' director of corporate development, said. He added that the club had spoken to UK Athletics in the past about the possibility of sharing a different stadium.

Dave Moorcroft, chief executive of UK Athletics, will be supported by the Sports Minister, Kate Hoey, and the Secretary of State, Chris Smith, when he makes his 20-minute presentation to the IAAF on Monday morning. A swift response is expected from the IAAF, which will award the championships to the sole bidders if the ruling body is happy with the guarantees offered.

If, however, the IAAF delays a final decision to clarify the details of a bid that has been put together at the last minute, rival bids from Perth and - more ominously - Berlin would be allowed back into the frame.

Moorcroft, however, was buoyant yesterday even though the figure of £60m Lottery money which has been promised to the project will not cover the total capital cost, estimated at between £85m and £120m.

"If that happens, that's life," Moorcroft said. "But we are in an exciting position with Picketts Lock. We have been handed a bundle of money and a blank piece of paper. We have never been in that position before. All the agencies involved in this bid have agreed that it is the correct, right and proper to go ahead and that any gap in funding will be filled."

Birmingham, whose bid for the 2003 World Indoor Championships will be heard by the IAAF on Sunday, face a challenge from Budapest, the city which hosted the 1998 European Championships.