Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Reborn Wembley

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Reborn Wembley

Article excerpt


THE SAGA of the new Wembley Stadium finally ended today when a pound sterling757million deal was signed to build a 90,000-seat venue on the historic north London site.

Football Association chief executive Adam Crozier and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said bulldozers will start demolishing the old Wembley, including the twin towers, next week.

At a joint press conference at the FA's Soho Square headquarters, Ms Jowell said work could at last begin on creating a "world-class national stadium" for the England team. The new-look stadium, with a futuristic arch, will begin staging internationals and cup finals in 2006, football authorities hope.

Ms Jowell admitted that the project, dogged by years of infighting at the FA and in Whitehall as well as rows over costs, had been a "long and at times painful journey". She added: "There have been many times in the last few years when no one thought this saga would ever be over." Echoing the famous TV commentary at the end of England's 1966 Wembley World Cup victory she added: "I am happy to say that it is now. Or rather, chapter one is over."

Ms Jowell said no more public money on top of the pound sterling161million already earmarked for the project - pound sterling120million from Lottery cash and two separate pound sterling20million-plus grants - would be spent on the new stadium. Ministers were fearful of the project turning into a repeat of the Millennium Dome, which constantly had to be bailed out with millions of pounds of extra Lottery cash. However, the total costs involved in building the new stadium are certain to see a fresh row.

Construction will cost pound sterling352million - compared with the pound sterling190million required to build Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, current home of major cup finals. The lawyers and bankers who have spent years on the project will get pound sterling82million in fees, while other costs such as improving transport infrastructure and demolition of the old site will make up the rest of the pound sterling757 million. Only two years ago, the likely total cost was put at pound sterling485million.

The new stadium will finally host competitive football fully 10 years after the project was first suggested, in 1996.

Chelsea won the last FA Cup Final to be staged at the old Wembley in May 2000, and later that year the curtain came down on the stadium with a 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat for England at the hands of Germany.

Ms Jowell said the four tests for securing government support for the project had finally been met, including an independent, value-for-money assessment of the scheme and "adequate and fully-committed financial support". The key moment came when the German bank WestLB put together a consortium to shoulder more than pound sterling420 million of debt.

The new stadium will include the facility to stage athletics events, which will help any future London Olympics bid. …

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