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Birmingham hits out over extra time for Wembley

Birmingham's team to rival Wembley National Stadium Ltd has condemned the government for giving another extension to the latter to finalise funding for the £715 million national stadium by Foster and Partners and HOK Sport.

Paul Spooner, director of economic development at Birmingham City Council, said the extension was 'very, very unpalatable'. Spending £715 million on a pitch 'bedevilled with access and infrastructure problems at a time when football is feeling the pinch' from TV deals, was questionable.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell gave Wembley an extension on Tuesday. 'Wembley has met tests set by Tessa Jowell, ' said a department spokesman. 'There is still some work to be done, but it would be unreasonable not to give them a little more time.'He gave no details but said WNSL set the deadline of 30 April and not the culture department (AJ 2.5.02).

The FA wrote to Jowell last Friday, saying it had 'substantially met' all the five tests she set last December. These included the ability to secure funding and ensure that costs did not outstrip those for other stadia around the world. The FA refused to comment.

Birmingham's 90,000-seater stadium by Arup Associates would cost £400 million and have good links to motorways, airport and railway, Spooner said, adding that the government should give Wembley no more than a few days more.

Arup director David Storer said: 'To put together that sort of financial package takes time. If they are 95 per cent towards achieving their goals is it right to say they have failed? But an extension is unfair if they have achieved only 50 per cent.'

Wembley is working with German financier WestLB. Its stadium will include a retractable running track and cost £340 million of the total project cost, said Foster and Partners.

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