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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 March 2007, 10:40 GMT
Wembley Q&A
Five Live sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar
By Gordon Farquhar
BBC Five Live sports news correspondent

Good-news stories have been rare during the six-and-a-half-year project to build the new Wembley.

Wembley's arch
The long, dark night of the Wembley farce could at last be over
But one appears to be on the horizon now. Builders Multiplex have handed over the keys of the stadium to the Football Association.

But what exactly does that mean? What needs to happen before a full-scale match can be played at the stadium? And the big question - will the FA Cup final take place at Wembley on 19 May?

I will try to give you the answers to these and other questions.


Q. What does "handing over of the keys" mean and what will it involve?

Sadly, nothing as simple as "here's the key, now cheerio".

In reality, it means the point at which the builders, Multiplex, and clients, Wembley National Stadium Limited, agree that all the work specified in the contract has been completed and the systems tested to the client's satisfaction.

WNSL say if this project was a 100m final they would be dipping for the line at the moment. Final checks are being made on things like the fire alarm system and the loading on the electrical circuit and then, at some point over the next four days, Multiplex will cease to have any legal responsibility for the work and WNSL will take over.

Q. Will there be a formal ceremony to mark the occasion?

The private view is there is nothing to shout about yet. Let's face it, why would you celebrate the handing over, two years late, of a hugely over-budget project?

Also, there is a huge amount of work for WNSL to do to put the stadium into operational mode. Privately, they think it will take a couple of years to get it all running as smoothly as they want.

They have to carry out a full security sweep and a lockdown ahead of the community day, which has been planned for 17 March.

At WNSL the view is there is no time to celebrate and neither is it appropriate to do so.

Q. What will happen after the handing over? What needs to happen before a big match like the FA Cup final can be held at the new Wembley?

The community day is the first thing. They have to stage two 'ramp-up' events to test out the venue before it can be granted a safety certificate.

That document will allow football matches at the full 90,000 capacity to be staged there. The community day is a ticketed event for people who live in the borough of Brent to have a look around and enjoy some entertainment.

They will be testing things like the public announcement system, escalators and turnstiles. The second event is expected to be an under-21 international between England and Italy on 24 March.

Both of these events have to be carried out to the satisfaction of the inspectors and WNSL before they get ready for the big opening, which ought to be at the Cup final on 19 May.

Q. Which begs the big question - will this year's FA Cup final be held at Wembley?

I think so. The bookies have probably stopped taking bets now. I would say it is more than 95% likely but WNSL have waited this long to get it right and if there are significant things they are not happy with, they will still be prepared to pull the plug.

That's why we haven't had a firm yes from the FA yet and why Cardiff is still booked out! That said, I think everyone involved will be hugely disappointed if it cannot be held at Wembley.

Originally, believe it or not, it was planned that Wembley would be open in time to stage the World Athletics Championship in 2005

There's a strong emotional pull now for that to happen and a financial one as well - don't forget the FA has not earned a penny back of its investment yet.

Q. What is the current state of relations between Multiplex and WNSL?

It is still strained but at least they are talking. There have been a raft of problems over the construction phase and lots of legal wrangling.

Towards the end of last year, after relations had hit rock bottom, there was an agreement reached over compensation and liability, which allowed all sides to get on with the job of delivering the stadium.

In the end, the FA will get an absolutely superb stadium that is fit for at least the next 50 years. The experience for the fans will be vastly improved over the old Wembley.

Q. How far over budget and over deadline has the project gone?

I think everyone has given up counting! Seriously, the FA did a nifty bit of business making this a fixed-cost contract.

The official overall cost was 757m but that is not including the overruns and compensation compromises on the building works, which were supposedly set at 352m.

Initially, back in 1995 when the idea of a national stadium to replace the old Wembley got up and running, people thought 400m would get you a state-of-the-art facility.

The deadlines have been a moveable feast all along, ever since the whole project was delayed by a year through Government intervention and a value-for-money exercise.

Originally, believe it or not, it was planned that Wembley would be open in time to stage the World Athletics Championship in 2005.

SEE ALSO
Wembley photos
02 Aug 06 |  Photo Galleries
FA set to gain control of Wembley
09 Mar 07 |  Football
Inside Wembley
28 Feb 07 |  Football
Ticket rush for NFL Wembley game
07 Feb 07 |  American Football


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