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German backing for new Wembley

England beat Germany at Wembley Stadium in the 1966 World Cup final
England beat Germany at Wembley Stadium in the 1966 World Cup final  

LONDON, England -- The English Football Association has signed a multi-million pound deal with a German bank to secure the future of a new Wembley Stadium.

The FA signed a "heads of agreement" for an estimated 400 million ($600 million) loan from Westdeutsche Landesbank on Friday.

It means that funding for the faltering 715 million project in north-west London has been provisionally secured.

The existing stadium, which has been closed and derelict since being closed two years ago, could be demolished, rebuilt and completed by the end of 2005.

Factfile: Wembley Stadium 

FA chief executive Adam Crozier said: "A huge amount of progress has been made in the last six months. Today marks a major step forward in our desire to build a stadium that will be among the finest in the world.

"There is still much work to be done but we have never been more confident that the final details can be worked out."

The new stadium itself would cost 358 million, although other costs such as local infrastructure and parking areas will push the price higher.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell described the deal as "a really important day in the countdown to a new national stadium."

She said: "Progress has not always been straightforward to say the least. Today's announcement is a big step forward. But there is still work to be done, so lets get on with it."

'Negative coverage'

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said the deal meant Wembley had cleared its "last remaining hurdle".

He said: "Football needs the new Wembley as much as the deprived area of north-west London that the stadium will deliver an economic boost to.

"This deal should finally put a stop to the negative media coverage surrounding the project.

"Just as all eyes focus on Japan and Korea, we can finally look forward to having superb new national stadium of our own, capable of hosting major events like the World Cup."

Alternatives had been to build a national stadium in the midlands or for the England team to play its matches hosted at domestic teams' stadium, such as those in Newcastle, London and Manchester.

The new stadium will feature a 133 metre-high arch to replace the famous twin towers and the stadium will host athletics and rugby league as well as football.

It will accommodate 90,000 people, of which 17,500 will be corporate hospitality seats.

Crozier said he believed England will eventually "have one of the finest stadiums in the world."

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Association, has said that fans were less worried about the stadium's location, and more about how many tickets would be available for future games.

Of the Wembley scheme he said: "We believe that a high proportion of the 90,000 seats will be `high premium' seats that are not available to ordinary fans."

He also said that the transport problems around Wembley needed to be addressed before any new stadium was built there.


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