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Wembley Stadium a financial albatross


As the Football Association celebrates the opening of the St. George's Park national Centre of Football Excellence by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, it should be remembered that Wembley Stadium remains  a potential financial albatross round the organisation's neck.   The completion of the £105m centre of excellence was much delayed by financial challenges, with the whole project being shelved at one stage.

Accounts for Wembley National Stadium, a wholly owned subsidiary of the FA, show that the huge cost of constructing the home of the national team continues to weigh heavily on its finances.   A significant fall in income or delay in large payments could force the company to break the terms of its bank loans.

Earnings were hit in 2011 by £21.4m of interest charges on the company's £367m of debts.   Turnover was just short of £100m, but this produced a tiny pre-tax profit of £83,000.   If it hadn't been for a £5.9m business rate refund by the local council, the result could have been much worse.

The stadium hosted marquee events such as the Uefa Champions League final and a record-breaking eight nights of Take That's Progress Live tour.   There is a huge variety of events: sometimes on my way down to London on the train, there are ladies of a certain age on the train quaffing wine as they get ready to see a retro pop idol.

As well as music and football, the stadium hosts both forms of egg chasing and American football. Even so, the stadium hosted just 28 events in 2011, although some of these were several days.  But that means for the greater part of the year the venue was empty (although the FA now has its offices there).  That is the dilemma that faces any stadium: under utilisation of an expensive capital asset.