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National stadium


With Birmingham, Coventry and London vying to build the UK's new national stadium, independent advisor Patrick Carter handed MPs his recommendations on its location three weeks ago. A verdict is expected 'imminently'.

This week we ask: Should the national stadium be in London or Birmingham?


Wembley, the birthplace of legends, must remain the home of the English national stadium. The very name has become a byword for international sporting excellence and has helped to maintain Britain's reputation as the home of football.

But Wembley will also be the quickest option. After more than three years of planning, the newlook stadium is ready to roll.

Planning permission has been granted and millions of pounds have been secured to improve the transport infrastructure.

An alternative site would require planning permission and, particularly with Birmingham's plans to build on greenbelt, would risk a public inquiry delaying the scheme by up to three years. The new Wembley could be open by 2005.

Meanwhile, operators of rail and road transport have been involved with the new Wembley Stadium development for the last four years. They have expertise in handling major sports and entertainment events, and have detailed plans agreed and ready to be implemented.

Wembley already has unrivalled transport links locally, nationally and internationally. As well as easy access from crossChannel ferries and the Channel Tunnel, London boasts five international airports.

Only Wembley can deliver the high capacity and flexible transport system needed for major events. It is served by three Underground and two mainline rail links which, after Wembley Park and Wembley Stadium stations are upgraded, will have the capacity to carry 70,000 spectators an hour. Wembley also has extensive local bus services and excellent road links. £20M has been committed for improved road access.

Wembley is situated in one of the most deprived areas in the country with unemployment running at twice the national average. The new stadium has the potential to change all this, creating 10,000 jobs and kick starting regeneration of the surrounding areas by increasing developer interest in the large tracts of derelict land around the stadium.

With so much already achieved - and so much more at stake - the Wembley dream cannot be allowed to die.


To understand why Birmingham is the best location for the national stadium you must look at what it offers.

First of all, Birmingham's accessibility, at the heart of the country, best serves the nation's football fans. This is borne out by a number of supporter polls including surveys at Premier League clubs, the Football Supporters Association and even the BBC's Watchdog programme, which polled a live TV audience and found 56% in Birmingham's favour.

Under closer scrutiny, these results are not surprising. Birmingham lies at the centre of the country's road network, the proposed site itself is within eight miles of four major motorways.

Birmingham International railway station, 20 minutes walk from the site, has excellent rail links to London, the North West and the South. Regular services into Birmingham New Street provide rail travellers with a countrywide service. Adding to all of this, Birmingham's international airport is just two miles away.

Birmingham offers excellent value for money because of the £1bn infrastructure investment already committed to the area.

Schemes include Birmingham's Northern Relief Road, new traffic management systems on the M42, rail improvements on the West Coast Main Line reducing journey times between Birmingham and London to less than one hour, and capacity improvements on the Cross Country InterCity networks.

Birmingham's project team has a proven track record delivering world class facilities on time and budget, including the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), the International Convention Centre, the National Indoor Arena and, just recently, Millennium Point.

Finally, the NEC Group would bring its unrivalled management and venue expertise to the stadium. The group is already used to managing over 5.5M visitors a year to over 1,000 events.

The facts

Plans to construct a new national stadium capable of hosting football and athletics events was launched in 1998.

The venue was planned to be used to support a UK bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Costs for the Wembley project have spiralled to an estimated £700M but funding has not been forthcoming from City investors. The Football Association has refused to make up an estimated cash shortfall of £125M in addition to £55M annual debt repayment, leaving the scheme stuck on the drawing board.

The government has refused to bankroll the project.

Birmingham and Coventry have both launched bids to steal the national stadium from Wembley. Independent advisor and ex-director of the Prison Services Board Patrick Carter was asked by the government to recommend the best location for the stadium. He reported to MPs three weeks ago.

Coventry's bid is only eight miles from the Birmingham site and is very similar in detail, with both stadia eventually being managed by the NEC.

Coventry already has approved planning on a brownfield site in a redevelopment area which carries economic advantages rather than the potential hurdles of Birmingham's greenfield site.

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