01/08/2006

Wembley Stadium 'unlikely to open until June 2007'

The opening of the new Wembley Stadium looks set to be delayed until June 2007.

The venue had been due to be completed by August 2005, but construction has been hit by a series of delays, which resulted in this year's FA Cup Final being moved to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Australian construction firm Multiplex announced on Tuesday that it was unlikely that the stadium would be ready before next June.

In a statement, Multiplex said that the stadium works were now "substantially complete", apart from the installation of the last remaining seats.

However, the construction firm said that a number of critical works and activities that were the responsibility of the venue's owner Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL) had either not begun or were not completed.

The Multiplex statement said: "WNSL is responsible for obtaining approvals from various authorities in order to ensure the stadium is fully operational for events. To obtain these approvals a series of test events will be required at the stadium to demonstrate to the authorities that the integration of the safety and control facilities are working properly such that a 90,000 spectator event can take place.

"Unless and until WNSL hold and successfully complete this series of test events, and obtain the required approvals, Multiplex will be prevented from achieving practical completion.

"The analysis has been reviewed with an expert in the operation of major stadia and indicates that it is unlikely that the stadium will be able to hold a test event for 90,000 spectators before June 2007."

However, WNSL released a statement which said: "Whilst the stadium is well on the way to being finished and looks magnificent from the outside, Multiplex still has major items to complete. For example, Multiplex has yet to finish the stadium's roof, the extensive remedial works to the stadium's drainage network, the building management and life safety systems and the installation of approximately 10,000 of the stadium's 90,000 seats. It has always been our view that the stadium's delays are Multiplex's responsibility."

However, WNSL said that it was "geared up" for the opening of the new stadium. The statement said: "We can only begin this final stage when Multiplex has sufficiently finished its works. At that point, we will be able to enter the stadium to start the handover process, begin our final training and carry out limited works which include the installation of radio communications systems, mobile cash machines and national flags.

"These items will be completed at the same time as we prepare for the test events which will precede our first full capacity event."

However, the Football Association said that it remained confident that Wembley Stadium would be ready for this season's FA Cup Final next May. In a statement, the FA said that "no plans" had been made to book the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for this season's FA Cup Final.

(KMcA)

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