Stadium builders Multiplex are “disappointed” with the Football Association’s decision to play the FA Cup final at Cardiff instead of Wembley.
The FA have finally given up hope the new national stadium will be ready in time for the May final, and chief executive Brian Barwick is also expected to announce today that England’s friendlies against Hungary on May 30 and Jamaica on June 3 will be played at Old Trafford.
In a statement to the Australian stock exchange, Multiplex company secretary Mark Wilson said: “Multiplex understands that the English Football Association is to transfer the 2006 FA Cup final to its reserve venue (Millennium Stadium).
“Whilst disappointed with the decision, Multiplex continues to work towards targeting completion of Wembley National Stadium at the earliest possible date.
“We understand that the FA has made this decision on the basis that it requires 100 per cent certainty that the venue will be fully functional by 13 May 2006, the scheduled date for the the 2006 FA Cup final.”
The decision comes after a final site visit by Barwick, Wembley chief executive Michael Cunnah and other FA and Wembley officials yesterday.
After a meeting with Martin Tidd, the UK managing director of Multiplex, who were unable to offer the necessary guarantees, the decision was taken to abandon all hope of staging the FA Cup final on May 13 at the £757m (€1.1bn).
The FA had already allowed Multiplex to move the completion deadline several times.
The original hand-over date was to be the autumn of 2005, then it was extended to January 31 2006 and then until March 31.
Multiplex, an Australian firm, are expected to lose more than £100m (€146m) on building the stadium and will be penalised £1m (€1.46m) a week for over-running the deadline.
Even if they do complete construction by March 31, however, the new stadium would have needed to train up hundreds of staff, and satisfy safety officials it can hold major events.
A number of pop concerts have been lined up at the new stadium for June, starting with Bon Jovi on June 10 and followed by The Rolling Stones, Take That and Robbie Williams, and Wembley chiefs are due to make an announcement later today on whether they can go ahead as planned.
The stadium has been dogged by delays and problems even before the site was sold to the FA in 1998.
The original £325m (€475m) cost has more than doubled and there were numerous wrangles and problems in raising the money before construction had even got underway.