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LONDON-Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has thrown his support behind a lobbying campaign to put the case for Wembley before an inquiry into the future of the stadium. The effort is headed by businessman Patrick Carter and is due to report at the end of this month.

Already 1966 England World Cup Winner Sir Geoff Hurst, the London Tourist Board and London First are supporting the case for Wembley. The Mayor says, ‘Wembley is already a world famous name and has helped to maintain Britain’s international reputation as the home of football. Not only is it the highlight of any footballer’s career to play at Wembley. It is unthinkable that the magic that is Wembley could be transferred to another location.’

Spiralling costs, public rows and a feeling elsewhere in the country that Wembley is poorly served for public transport and catering facilities have all helped to focus criticism on the decision to remain in such an unfashionable part of north west London.

Livingstone’s campaign outlines the benefits a new Wembley will bring. A new stadium could be ready by 2005 together with a planned £90 million underground station, two improved rail stations and two new link roads and would attract an estimated £229 million of visitor spending each year.Livingstone has said that, without it, up to 10,000 jobs will be lost in the London Borough of Brent, already one of the country’s most deprived areas, while the stadium will become a derelict listed building, blighting the 50 acres of land surrounding it. ‘Over half the £120-million National Lottery funding used to purchase the current stadium will be wasted as land values for the site plummet,’ he says .

The Mayor’s office countered suggestions that Birmingham was a more appropriate location, better served by public transport, by saying that planning permission to develop a greenfield site capable of accommodating a new stadium would be against Government planning guidelines and take far too long.

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