Wembley Stadium finishes long overdue overhaul

By Kevin Hilton

SVG European Correspondent

Over a year behind schedule and wildly over budget the new Wembley Stadium in north London has finally been handed over to the Football Association (FA). Enthusiasm at the completion of the new home of English football, in time for this year’s FA Cup Final, has drawn attention away from the fact that the venue was due to be finished by January 2006 and that it has cost in the region of 1 billion, as opposed to the projected 757 million.

The keys, approximately 3000 of them, were passed to the FA on Saturday and a series of events was announced leading up to the Cup Final, which will enable the venue’s facilities to be tested and obtain a General Safety Certificate from Brent Council. The first of these “ramp-up” days will be for the residents of the local community. The second will be the England Under-21 international against Italy on 24th March. Tickets went on sale this afternoon and demand was such that the FA’s website crashed.

Building contractor Multiplex has come under fire for its work on the 90,000 capacity stadium but there now seems to be just relief that the FA Cup Final will go ahead at the venue on 19th May. Brian Barwick, chief executive of the FA, commented, “Handover of the keys is a significant step towards staging this year’s FA Cup Final and the opening of the new Wembley Stadium.”

The managing director of Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL), Alex Horne, said, “We have a lot of detailed work still to do and will continue post-handover to work with Multiplex and its sub-contractors to finalise all aspects of the stadium and bring it to life.”

Music has always been a big part of Wembley’s business and George Michael will play the first concert there on 9th June; but attention is fixed on the culmination of the English football season returning to its traditional home.

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