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PRAWNED OFF; Fans' seats sold to corporate sponsors in Wembley's last desperate cash bid.

Byline: PAUL BYRNE

FOOTBALL fans have blasted plans to hand over 20 per cent of seats at the new Wembley Stadium to the prawn sandwich brigade.

Up to 17,500 seats will be allocated to the corporate sector - denying thousands of ordinary supporters the chance to watch England internationals and the FA Cup Final.

Wembley bosses have until the end of the month to convince the Government they can handle the cost of a new national stadium. If they fail, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Sport, will re-open the door to rival bidders in Birmingham.

Wembley National Stadium Ltd needs to borrow pounds 430million to help finance the pounds 760million project. And in an effort to persuade banks to invest, they have agreed to increase the executive seats from 15,000 to 17,500, almost a fifth of the 90,000 capacity.

Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which cost pounds 190million, has given just 2.74 per cent of its 74,000 seats to the corporate sector.

Wembley National Stadium Ltd says 70 per cent of ticket revenue will come from the corporate seats - keeping costs lower for ordinary fans.

But Alan Lee from the independent 4 England supporters club said the plan was a disgrace.

He added: "We have been campaigning along with other independent groups to try to increase the allocation of tickets that go to ordinary fans.

"These are the people who pay their money, create the atmosphere, and make the game what it is. I know this is the way football seems to be going, but it is all wrong."

Manchester United captain Roy Keane last season criticised corporate guests for being more interested in their prawn sandwiches than the football.

A WNSL spokesman declined to comment on its new seating plans or the current financial situation. Any decision on the future of Wembley is likely to be announced after the local government elections on May 2.

The stadium has been closed since October 2000.

paul.byrne@mirror.co.uk

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 24, 2002
Words:342
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