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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 15:25 GMT
'Steel the key' to extra time
Wembley Stadium arch
Wembley: Yet to enjoy its day in the sun
As Wembley constructors admit the stadium will not be ready in time to host the FA cup final, football fans are wondering what went wrong with the 757m build.

The project has been beleaguered by setbacks since its conception when the old stadium was sold to a consortium almost eight years ago.

They are problems common to all building projects from the size of a house to a house of parliament.

Difficulties in buying the land, missing key deadlines and wrangles with contractors on site are normal hitches in construction.

But was a dispute over the enormous steel girders supporting the stadium the defining crisis?

Despite 3,500 people working on site, at the end of January this year, constructors Multiplex downgraded the chance of the new stadium hosting the FA Cup final to 70%.

The Australian firm's British managing director Martin Tidd said subcontractors at the site were committed to the 31 March deadline for substantial completion, but there were risks in it being ready for the May match date.

He said factors included subcontractors' performance, changes in design, relations with trade unions for those working on the site and the weather.

Meanwhile, newspaper reports said completing the roof on the stadium's south side was also causing a problem. Windy conditions could delay steel cable supports being taken away to settle the roof into its final position.

Work on the walkway to the stadium began months behind schedule.

But there is one reason above all others that Wembley will not be ready on time, according to one industry commentator.

"The real reason why it's not going to be ready on time is because of the dispute with steel work firm Cleveland Bridge in summer 2004," said David Rogers, deputy news editor of Construction News.

'Knock-on delays'

"Wembley is basically steel," he said. The company was contracted to source, fabricate and install it. A long-bubbling dispute over money saw them part company.

The snowballed result was months of work time lost, he said.

"They had to try to claw back five months and they didn't have enough wriggle room."

Construction worker on wires at Wembley
More than 3,000 workers are trying to complete it

The delay did have knock-on effects, causing problems with other sub-contractors, such as electricians, as the company tried to make up the time.

"But they all relate to the fact that if Multiplex wasn't having to rush to get the job finished, they wouldn't have had all these problems."

He said that where Multiplex dropped the ball was having a row with their biggest sub-contractor.

"It all boils down to the fact that they had this dispute with Cleveland Bridge.

"That's the biggest single reason why it's late. If they didn't have that they would be finished."

The legal wrangle between Cleveland Bridge and Multiplex is due to go to the High Court in April.

Using the wrong strength of concrete in the bases of the supports for the triumphal arch, and having to dig it back out again to replace it, have added to delays.

Results due

In January, Multiplex set out how far it had got with Wembley. Of 161 hospitality boxes, 24 were substantially complete, with carpets. Of 127 toilet blocks, eight were complete. Of 44 catering kiosks, four.

On Thursday, it is due to announce its interim financial results to the Australian stock exchange in Sydney.

It was always going to cost more money than it had in the budget originally and it was always never going to be ready for this year's cup
P-Y Gerbeau

Its 2005 group revenue was A$4.2bn (1.8bn) with a A$148.1m (62.7m) post-tax profit.

Multiplex agreed a fixed-price contract of 445m to build Wembley Stadium - with the project set to cost the FA 757m in total.

Unconfirmed newspaper reports say the constructor has gone over budget - some say by more than 100m.

Wembley-watchers say it is still too early to call a date when the stadium will be ready, a worry for Wembley National Stadium Limited, the subsidiary company which runs the venue.

There may be a financial penalty for Multiplex to pay to the FA if the project overruns.

A spokeswoman for Multiplex said it stood by the reasons for the delay that it gave in January. It was still working to having the stadium ready in May.

'Manage expectation'

While the FA wanted a 100% guarantee before setting the Cup final venue in stone, she said Multiplex "couldn't better our 70% estimate".

Perhaps, as with many major builds, the key to making Wembley a success is to manage people's expectations.

As P-Y Gerbeau, former Chief Executive of the Millennium Dome told the BBC: "It was always going to cost more money than it had in the budget originally and it was always never going to be ready for this year's cup.

"So why did we say 2006, and (not) say, be ready in 2008 and the good news is, well, actually, we are a bit in advance, it will be ready for 2007."

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