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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Wembley stadium chaos 'self-inflicted'
Artists impression of the new 90,000-seater stadium
The future of the new stadium is still uncertain
Many of the problems surrounding the new Wembley stadium project are the result of "self-inflicted injuries", an influential group of MPs has claimed.

They said the beleaguered 715m project had been hit by ambiguous government support, while the official sports funding body, Sport England, had been "slack, slovenly and supine".

In its report, Into Injury Time, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee also raised concerns about the lack of private sector support for the 90,000-seater stadium.

And it said the Football Association subsidiary Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL) had failed to meet the high standards required of a project heavily reliant on Lottery money.

The Conservatives accused the government of allowing Wembley to become a "national embarrassment", while the Liberal Democrats said it had acted like "a back-seat driver".


The committee, chaired by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, investigated problems which delayed the opening of the new national stadium at Wembley back by years.

Sport England's performance has been deficient to the point of dereliction

Into Injury Time report
Sport England's decision to use 120m of Lottery money to support the project before commercial backing was found was criticised.

Insisting the money must be returned if the plans collapse, the report said: "We repeat that Sport England's protection of the 120m, the largest single grant ever awarded to a sporting body, entirely fails to meet the standards to be expected of such a public body.

"We believe that Sport England's performance has been deficient to the point of dereliction."

It said Sport England must "put its house in order" and raised concerns that it may also have mismanaged other large-scale projects.

The committee also demanded lessons were learned, so that any future Lottery-backed schemes were not infected by "Wembley syndrome".


Sport England said it had launched an internal review.

Wembley Stadium
The existing stadium could be re-opened
Chief executive David Moffett said: "I have already conceded that there are lessons to be learned about the way complex projects such as Wembley are dealt with."

But he insisted: "Our focus remains the protection of public funds and the development of the best stadium in the world at Wembley."


The committee heard from former consultants to the project, who claimed Australian firm Multiplex won the contract to develop the stadium after receiving "preferential treatment".

The MPs were also astonished when they learned FA Cup finals would have to be staged at the existing stadium for the next 20 years if the project fell through.

It also revealed a memorandum from City trouble-shooter David James, who warned the contract could never be regarded as "100% safe".

The committee said WNSL had failed to act with proper transparency and it was "outrageous" that a company reliant on Lottery money had been regarded as a private firm.

WNSL chairman Michael Jeffries said the inquiry accepted the current stadium design represents value for money and the concerns related to historical events, not the present project.


Plans for a new national stadium have been dogged by delays, management problems and spiralling costs since Wembley was chosen in December 1996.

The designs were unveiled in 1999, but had to be overhauled following an argument about whether the complex should include a running track.

But the deal is now close to completion, with the Football Association hoping to finalise it within weeks.

The committee welcomed the fact that building work is now expected to start before the end of the year.

Former sports minister Tony Banks said there had been political interference without direct government money.

The Labour MP said: "All we want now is for this wretched project to be finished".

And he said he had it on good authority that the deal would be finalised by the end of July with developers on site by September.

The BBC's James Pearce
"Sport England are the ones who come in for most criticism in this report"
Local MP for Wembley, Barry Gardiner
"The fundamental problem all along was with the FA"
Sport England chief executive David Moffett
"Wembley, when it's built, will be the world's best stadium"

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01 Jul 02 | Search for a New Wembley
23 May 02 | Politics
22 May 02 | England
21 May 02 | Search for a New Wembley
07 May 02 | England
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