Wembley forced to put up safety nets amid fears roof could fall in
The Football Association was forced to install netting under the entirety of Wembley Stadium's roof as a precautionary measure against any of it falling down, part of a long-running problem which is one of the reasons the governing body is interested in selling to billionaire Shahid Khan.
The FA board decided in Sept 2013 that it needed to take precautionary measures against the problem which dates back to the stadium's opening in 2007 when it was discovered that roof panels had been wrongly installed.
The final decision to install the netting is understood to have been undertaken when a part that had fallen from the roof was discovered in the stand during a non-matchday routine check.
The roof problem was the centre of a legal dispute between the FA and Wembley's builders, Multiplex, which found in favour of the governing body that the panels had been installed wrongly when the stadium was built. The insurance taken out by Multiplex is expected to cover most of the work, but it has been put on hold this season because Tottenham Hotspur's tenancy at the stadium has left little time for it to be done.
There were also major issues with leakages of water in the Royal Box, known internally as the Wembley Suite, where key guests of the FA are entertained, including the Duke of Cambridge, who is the president of the governing body.
Khan told The Daily Telegraph on Monday that he would like to build a retractable roof that shuts entirely. Wembley's current roof moves only to allow greater sunshine and air movement to aid the growth of the pitch, exposing the stands at the eastern and western ends of the stadium.
The cost of installing a fully retractable roof has been estimated at around £150-£200 million – around a quarter of Wembley's original cost to rebuild. The major housing development by builder Quintain on the main car park to the north-east of the stadium would also mean that there would be no room to construct and co-ordinate a major building project on-site.
Multiplex, then Australian-owned, won the contract to build Wembley, which cost the FA £757m, a figure that includes the acquisition of the old stadium and the improvement of local train stations, and road. Multiplex has since been bought by the Canadian property group, Brookfield Asset Management. As is common with major construction projects, work continued on faults for years after the stadium opened with much of that focused on the roof. Multiplex did not respond to requests to comment.
The FA have acknowledged that the netting exists at the stadium but say it was a precautionary factor that far outweighed the risk to spectators. The FA is attracted to the idea of selling Wembley to Khan for £600m in order to avoid future costs in modernising the stadium, which has now been open for more than 10 years.
The governing body would retain control of Club Wembley and faces a major challenge in how it operates that lucrative hospitality operation, which is the governing body’s third biggest revenue earner and helps to keep ticket prices in the rest of the stadium affordable.