Every football fan is familiar with Wembley. The original stadium was widely regarded as the best globally, hosting major titles and many unforgettable events.
Unfortunately, the stadium that now stands in place of the original did not initially live up to the predecessor's reputation.
The development of the new Wembley Stadium was full of examples of poor project management, which almost doomed the entire project.
The construction of Wembley Stadium cost over £789 million (£1.2 billion today), making it one of the most expensive stadiums ever constructed. It also features the world’s longest unsupported roof structure, thanks to its signature arch.
Despite many delays, obstacles, and litigations, the modern Wembley Football Stadium eventually opened to the public in 2007. It is now considered a remarkable structure and crowning achievement for the Football Association (FA).
So, how did this badly run project end up with a good outcome? Here is a closer look at the construction of Wembley Stadium.
On September 11, 2000, Multiplex (an Australian construction company) signed a contract to demolish the old Wembley Stadium and build a new one. The contract had a proposed budget of £326.5 million.
Unfortunately, the project was delayed almost immediately. By May 1, 2001, the Football Association (FA), who were the stadium owners, admitted that the project was doomed without a government bailout.
It took another year for the FA to secure funding to continue the project. They signed a loan agreement with WestLB, a German Bank, and began demolishing the old stadium.
Demolition on the old Wembley Stadium officially began in September of 2002. The Twin Towers were dismantled in December.
It appeared that 2003 would mark the start of construction, and things would hopefully go smoothly. However, a series of issues delayed the project and increased its costs:
• A subcontractor underestimated the scope of the project
• The same subcontractor pulled out of the project
• Another subcontractor violated health and safety laws
These problems led to significant delays. The project was originally slated to be completed in 2006. The Football Association had already booked events and football matches at the stadium. These events had to be rescheduled or relocated, as construction was not completed for another year.
One of the first problems that occurred was the dispute between Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company. Multiplex had hired Cleveland Bridge to handle the construction of the massive arch that extends over the stadium. Cleveland Bridge is a steel construction firm based out of Darlington.
Cleveland Bridge warned Multiplex about the rising costs of constructing the arch. The two parties could not see eye-to-eye, forcing the steel construction firm to pull out of the project.
Cleveland Bridge walked away from the Wembley Stadium project in August of 2004. Multiplex eventually took Cleveland Bridge to court. The judge ruled in favour of Multiplex, but the company did not fully recoup its losses.
Multiplex still needed to find a subcontractor to complete the construction of the arch. They hired a Dutch firm called Hollandia. Hollandia took over construction but had to start from the beginning on the arch.
Multiplex was already facing delays and issues related to the arch's construction when a devastating accident occurred. In 2004, carpenter Patrick O’Sullivan was killed during an onsite accident.
A 303kg section of scaffolding fell on the construction worker and father of two. Construction firm PC Harrington Contractors was found at fault for the accident.
Multiplex had subcontracted the firm to build a reinforced concrete framework. Along with the death of Mr O’Sullivan, the accident injured another worker.
PC Harrington Contractors was fined £150,000 for violations of health and safety laws. Unfortunately, this fine did not stop project managers from finding ways to cut corners and complete the project quicker.
Multiplex was still feeling the pressure of needing to complete the stadium project. The challenges they were facing led them to avoid paying the subcontractors hired to complete the sewage system underneath the stadium.
The subcontractors laid the pipes improperly. Rumours also suggested that the subcontractors filled the pipes with concrete due to the lack of payment from Multiplex. Whether it was improper work or concrete, the pipes began to shift.
The sewers eventually buckled, which required extensive repair work and delayed the project for several more months.
Another accident occurred when a steel rafter in the roof fell by almost 46 centimetres—the potential risk of the rafter falling further forced 3,000 workers to evacuate the stadium.
These issues contributed to the delays, but the stadium eventually opened. The stadium was officially handed over on March 9, 2007.
Unlike the Millennium Dome, the Wembley Stadium project eventually paid off. After officially opening the stadium, the FA started hosting matches and special events, such as concerts.
The stadium has consistently produced revenue for the FA and finally broke even in 2015. It took eight years for the Football Association to recoup its initial investment.
In 2017, Wembley Stadium made pre-tax profits of £5.5 million. The previous year, the FA posted a record revenue of £370 million.
It is safe to say that the new Wembley Football Stadium construction was ultimately a successful project. The stadium now generates revenue for the owners and provides a suitable venue for football matches and other local events.
If there is a lesson to be learned, project managers should pay close attention to their chosen subcontractors. Multiplex struggled throughout the construction project, partially due to Cleveland Bridge pulling out and another subcontractor failing to follow health and safety laws.
Avoiding these same mistakes requires a careful review of all options before subcontracting any work. Project managers are still responsible for the performance of subcontractors.
To run a successful project yourself, you have to pay attention to the projects that came before. Thankfully, today we have more examples of revising than ever - both successful and failures. The Institute strongly believes that the best learning experience is not just theory. Therefore, each course is led by an expert lecturer, allowing you to get exclusive knowledge of their own experiences in the field. Putting in as many practical examples will enable you to manage projects the best you can. Explore the Institute's course page and find a course suitable for the project management area you wish to improve.