Fears grow as deadline looms
The chances of this year's FA Cup final being held at the new Wembley stadium have receded still further with builders Multiplex admitting there is only a 70% chance of construction work being finished on time.
The building firm warned in December there was 'a material risk' of the £757million stadium not being finished by the March 31 deadline.
Now Multiplex have admitted the situation has deteriorated and they will tell Wembley chiefs in three weeks whether they will be able to make the deadline.
Following the announcement Wembley's chief executive Michael Cunnah said they would be monitoring progress very closely, but conceded that the safety and quality of the stadium was paramount to the cup final being held there on March 13.
Cunnah said in a statement: 'Multiplex have stated that they are 70% confident of delivering the stadium according to the revised schedule but they have acknowledged that risks continue to exist.
'WNSL work closely with Multiplex. We will continue to monitor progress on a daily basis and take their expert advice on how the stadium is progressing. Multiplex today said that in three weeks they will be able to advise whether the stadium will make March 31 completion.
'However The FA will make the decision on where the cup final will be held. The safety and the quality of the stadium must remain the most important factors and will ultimately dictate the outcome of this decision.'
Multiplex will face penalty clauses up to a reported £120,000 a day if they over-run, though they are trying to challenge that figure, but even if they do finish by March 31 the FA will still have to decide whether they have time to hire and train all the staff needed.
If Wembley is not ready, the final will be held at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium instead.
Multiplex's UK managing director Martin Tidd said the firm was committed to handing over the stadium on March 31, but added there were still risks involved in meeting the deadline.
At a briefing at the stadium, Tidd said Multiplex and the sub-contractors were 'fully committed to substantial completion by March 31'
But he added: 'I need to restate there are residual risks that remain in terms of the stadium being able to hold the FA Cup final in May.'
He said these risks involved the performance of sub-contractors, design changes, relations with trade unions and the weather.
Tidd said that the firm was in constant dialogue with WNSL but said: 'My view would be a 70% chance of completion for the cup final.'
He said everything had to work 'like a Swiss watch' to meet commitments.
Potential difficulties after March 31 included sorting out any defects and testing by the authorities of things like lighting, power and air conditioning.
'It does not all come down to us at the end of the day. There's a lot of people needed to make sure the FA Cup comes off,' he said.
'We have 3,500 guys out there putting a huge amount of pressure on the contractors to drive the job over the line.
'There's still a risk, we are managing it, but there may be other contractors out there that might not see it through.'
Tidd said Multiplex had been working closely with trade unions over grievances involving the site's electricians over pay and conditions.
But he insisted the company would not be held to ransom. The Australian firm revealed in December they faced losses of up to £70million on the project.
Tidd said the current situation was a 'deterioration from what we said in December'.
He added: 'It's not 50-50, it's not 100%. At this point in time it's 70%.'
In the update, Multiplex gave details of the degree to which the stadium had been completed.
Of the 161 hospitality boxes, 24 were substantially complete with carpets, while 64 others had either wall panels or ceilings completely fitted.
Of 127 toilet pods, eight were complete, 33 were ready for final finishes to be added and a further 30 had toilets fitted.
Out of 44 catering kiosks, just four were complete and between 50% and 80% of the ceilings were finished in the concourse areas.
The arch over the stadium, which is 313 metres wide and 133 metres tall, is now in position.