TCS Daily

A Political Football

By Andrew Ian Dodge - May 1, 2006 12:00 AM

It's an object lesson in the comparative value of non-government influence. Two new stadiums being built in Britain, both high-profile construction projects designed to glorify their resident teams and boost national pride, demonstrate vividly the value of the private sector.

The two projects to which I refer are the new Wembley Stadium and the new Emirates Stadium for Arsenal Football Club. While the new national stadium has been plagued with delays, labor problems, collapsing parts and cost over-runs, and is now expected to be at least a year late in completion, Emirates will open on time and near budget (£357 million estimate; actual cost £390 million) in its Islington home. The stadium is state of the art, built to the requirements of one of the top Premiership clubs.

There will be no need to reschedule events planned to occur at the new Emirates. In contrast, a whole slew of high profile events have having to be moved from the expected new national stadium, including a World Cup warm-up match, the Football Association Cup final, a big two-night stand by rock group Bon Jovi and other concerts.

There are winners in the Wembley debacle, including Cardiff, whose Millennium stadium is eager to take up the slack and host major sporting events as it has in recent years, since the closing of the historic old Wembley Stadium. Cardiff merchants can look forward to tens of thousands of sports fans coming to their town to spend their money while the run-down area of Wembley is still suffering. And still hoping for an eventual return of trade.

The Wembley Stadium construction delays are a major embarrassment for the government and for the Football Association. The situation offers yet another example of why public funding and even private partnerships do not work. Wembley, the so-called "Home of Football," is right now the home of delay, frustration and waste.

Recently there have been reports that Wembley is in fact sinking in situ. Workers at the site have been discussing this development avidly, despite protestations from site managers and governments officials. It seems that the new edifice might be rather too heavy for the land on which it is situated. Things are so bad that the Conservative Party has called for an inquiry by the National Audit Office. There is a state of mild but increasing panic in various circles as this debacle does not bode well for the completion of the stadium and facilities necessary for the 2012 London Olympics.

Also, workers are being laid off at Wembley because apparently the two major construction companies on the project are owed in the region of £4 million.

Wembley also recalls that other great project of Tony Blair's government, the Millennium Dome. Said edifice is now owned by O2 and called "The O2" to eliminate memories of its ignoble start. It should be noted that O2 is a company that sponsors the successful Arsenal club. Not keen to merely move into their magnificent new home, Arsenal is converting its old stadium, Highbury, into flats for their fanatical fans. These flats are selling well and look to be completely occupied soon.

I suspect officials in charge of Wembley will be looking to the North London club with a great deal of envy. Wembley Stadium was meant to be a spectacular statement to the world about English pride in its football heritage. Instead it has proven a colossal failure and government boondoggle.

Andrew Ian Dodge is a TCS contributor.


1 Comment

A Political Football
I am afraid that your argument is completely wrong.

Wembley Stadium is not a government project impeded by government interference. The commissioning organisation is the Football Association a corporation formed from representatives of the managements of Football league clubs, all private companies.
The FA's notorious incompetence, recently illustrated by the debacle over the chaotic events surrounding the appointment of a new manager for the national team, grows from how powerful football club directors create a weak oganisation to represent them then interfere with its decisions. A bit like the way the US pushes the UN around. See the following for more details.

You should know your subject better before committing your pre-formed ideas to print.


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