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Football: Ken gives Wembley last rites.

KEN BATES last night warned that Wembley will be finished as a major soccer venue if the stadium is not sold to the Football Association on Thursday.

Bates is appalled by the political infighting that is threatening the pounds 106million sale to the FA in a Lottery-funded bid.

That offer has to be ratified by shareholders but is vehemently opposed by the non-executive directors who control Wembley plc - and they are recommending a rival bid.

But Bates made it clear that Wembley's tradition of staging cup finals, semi-finals and England games will not continue if an offer by Sfx Entertainment, the American promoter, wins the ownership battle.

Bates said: "Unless Wembley is sold to the FA on Thursday the role of Wembley will be at an end. Make no mistake, we mean business on this.

"It is no longer the amateurs versus the professionals, the professionals are in charge of this process.

"And it is not just Ken Bates making these noises, it is the unanimous decision of the FA Council that the FA will not re-negotiate with Wembley if it does not own the stadium.

"The game has been short- changed by Wembley for 25 years. No longer. The money taken out of football by Wembley has been astronomical and it will stop."

Claes Hultman, chairman of Wembley, the leisure group, has called a board meeting for today to consider the American promoter's late bid.

If the offer is formalised then Hultman will want to cancel Thursday's crucial vote when investors are being asked to approve the sale to the FA.

Sfx assembled a team of leading advisers and their bid is supported by Wembley's three non-executive directors, Jarvis Astaire, Roger Brooke, and Peter Mead, who argue the stadium is being sold on the cheap.

Bates, on behalf of the FA, chairs the takeover panel and is adamant the FA will go elsewhere if they cannot own Wembley, taking big games around the country.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Harris, Harry
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 8, 1999
Words:325
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