Sporting chance: can it pay its way?

Steve Tongue
Tuesday 04 February 2014 04:24
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A dozen major football matches each year will form the staple diet of the new Wembley, which will be leavened by occasional rugby league, pop concerts and possibly athletics. Spectators are being promised proper leg room, decent refreshments and sparkling lavatories, all of which will be something of a novelty. The stadium will be graced by a 436ft-high arch designed by Norman Foster, which he hopes will become a London landmark to rival the old twin towers.

But even with such lucrative pay-days as England internationals, the FA Cup final, the League Cup final and annual play-off matches, the Football Association will require revenue from other events for the stadium to pay for itself. In the past, sports as diverse as baseball, show jumping (which ruined the pitch) and even ski-ing have been tried, while regular greyhound racing proved a blessing when Wembley ran into financial trouble soon after opening in 1923.

The FA Cup final was played there until 2000, and the 2006 final has been pencilled in for a possible re-opening event. The England team plays, on average, six home matches each season, and rarely used any ground other than Wembley from the 1950s until the final game in October 2000.

Taking subsequent matches around the country has proved popular with supporters and players, but the FA will need to maximise revenue in future at the new stadium, which could have as many as 16,000 corporate hospitality seats. Officials will need to ensure that the price structure is right; there have been complaints about tickets which offered a poor view costing as much as £60 for recent cup finals at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

The Rugby League Cup final, played at Wembley almost every year from the 1920s to 1999, is likely to resume as soon as the new stadium is ready. For the past three seasons it has been at Murrayfield and Twickenham, and goes to Cardiff next year.

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