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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Barclays abandons Wembley bid
Wembley Stadium
Wembley may be rebuilt with German money
Barclays bank has withdrawn a bid to finance the reconstruction of Wembley stadium, clearing the way for a rival German offer.

The British bank said it was walking away from the deal after failing to agree terms with the Football Association.

"In the light of today's developments, we are withdrawing from the transaction," Barclays said in a statement.

Barclay's withdrawal follows reports earlier on Friday that Wembley Stadium's owners were in talks with a rival consortium headed by Germany's Westdeutsche Landesbank.

Bigger package

Westdeutsche Landesbank's rival financing offer was reported to be worth between 400m and 500, outweighing Barclays' 300m package.


If the German banks can see a business opportunity, then I'm sure that any of the English banks could

World Cup winner George Cohen

Barclays, the UK's fourth biggest bank, had been thought to be the only serious bidder for the planned 90,000-seater development.

Westdeutsche's funding proposal is reportedly being put together by Robin Saunders, head of the German bank's principal finance group, and her 32-strong team of investment bankers.

Ms Saunders is admired in the City of London for her skill at difficult transactions, having at one point drafted a bailout for Railtrack - a task many would shun - and rescued a floundering bond issue for Formula One motor racing, the newspaper said.

Deadline looms

Wembley National Stadium Limited is still waiting for its business plan to be accepted by the government.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell set a deadline of 30 April - now just days away - for promoters to come up with funding for the project to rebuild Wembley Stadium.

A spokesman for Westdeutsche Landesbank declined to comment on reports that it was preparing a bid.

But he said: "Deals of this size and complexity require very careful analysis over a period of many months."

George Cohen, who played in England's 1966 World Cup-winning team, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is a bit ironic and a bit bizarre that we can't put the money up completely to fund our own stadium.

"It does seem a bit sad that we can't fund the whole thing.

"If the German banks can see a business opportunity, then I'm sure that any of the English banks could."

Soaring costs

The involvement of a German bank may prove hard for England football fans to swallow, given longstanding rivalry between the two countries' football teams.

Wembley was the site of England's 1966 World Cup victory over Germany, but Germany beat England at the last match held there before the stadium was mothballed.

The estimated cost of rebuilding Wembley Stadium has more than trebled since the project was first mooted in 1996.

Back then, the budget was expected to be about 220m.

By May 2001, when the British government refused a request from the Football Association for 150m of financial help with the troubled project, the cost had risen to 700m.

The government has insisted it will only contribute financially if it is convinced that the other funds are "adequate and fully committed" and the plan meets stringent viability tests.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's James Pearce
"Building work could begin straight away"
1966 England World Cup legend George Cohen
"It seems sad that we can't fund the whole thing"

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