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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Microsoft signs as Wembley backer
Michael Cunnah, Chief Executive of Wembley Stadium (left) and Nick Barley, Business Officer at Microsoft UK
Wembley Stadium is scheduled to open in 2006
Bill Gates and software giant Microsoft have signed to become first "Founding Partner" of the new Wembley stadium, in a five-year deal worth at least 5m.

Officials at English football's new showpiece stadium will work with the US firm for one year of construction and for four years after completion.

Wembley is due to open in 2006, when it is expected to stage the FA Cup final.

Microsoft technology will be used in the stadium, and the firm will get use of the pitch for 90 minutes a year.

'Iconic' stadium

Neither party would comment on the exact cost of the deal, but Wembley said it was a "seven-figure-sum" and that basic sponsorship for a prospective Founding Partner is 5m. However they would not say what Microsoft had paid.

"We are tremendously proud to be the first (founding partner)," said Nick Barley, business and marketing officer of Microsoft UK.

"You won't see our name on players' shirts but there is something about Wembley - it's an icon, it's a legend, it's part of British culture and life."

The original Wembley opened in 1923 for the British Empire Exhibition and hosted its last match when Germany beat England at the stadium in autumn 2000.

Regeneration programme

Michael Cunnah, chief executive of Wembley Stadium, said they were in negotiations with three more founding partners for the 90,000-seat venue.

He said they were all "in the pipeline" and that the project is on target for completion in time for this season's FA Cup final next May after an absence of six years.

Wembley executives say over two million visitors will visit the stadium each year for sporting and entertainment events, and that the project will generate approximately 5,000 new jobs.

The stadium is at the heart of a regeneration programme for the borough of Brent called Vision 2020, creating new homes, offices and community sport and leisure facilities as well as improved public transport links.

However its construction has not been entirely smooth, with delays and cost overruns, with Australian builders Multiplex saying it will not make a profit on the contract.

"The union of Microsoft and the new state-of-the-art Wembley Stadium is fantastic news and will help resurrect the stadium as the world's leading sports and entertainment venue," said Mr Cunnah.

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