Taxpayer to pay for emergency work after former manager Wembley accused of

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 August, 1998, 12:00am

Taxpayers have been hit with a near $6.5 million bill for outstanding repairs to the Hong Kong Stadium, said to have been left by former managers Wembley International.

The Urban Council's Stadium Board of Governors yesterday approved $6.46 million in emergency repairs made necessary by water seepage from concrete slab joints and air-conditioning drains.

The leaks threaten expensive electronic equipment in the arena and must be repaired before the stadium reopens on September 30, probably with a soccer match.

Government inspectors said most of the faults were up to a year old and left unrepaired by the Wembley organisation, which was sacked by councillors in May after management problems.

The company and the council are in a legal dispute over the contract termination.

Councillors yesterday said the leaks would have been easily seen by Wembley staff and ordered the appointment of independent engineers to assess the problem, saying Wembley may be sued over the repair bill.

Board chairman Ambrose Cheung Wing-sum said he was angered by the extent and expense of the faults, which exceeded the arena's average yearly maintenance costs of $5.5 million.

'We are extremely upset and disappointed with this problem . . . it appears to have been there for quite some time but unfortunately it was never raised with us by the previous management,' Mr Cheung said.

'We will find out who is responsible and see whether there is any negligence as this is a very large amount of public money.' Staff of the Architectural Services and the Electrical and Mechanical Services departments said the worst-hit areas were rooms housing computers and other electronic equipment for special effects, public announcements and outside broadcasts.

The equipment has been covered in plastic sheeting until repairs are made.

Wembley last night told the Post that any allegations of negligence were unfounded.

'We are most disappointed and disturbed by any suggestions that we declined to maintain the stadium to anything less than its optimum standard,' spokesman Martin Corrie said.

'We did not walk away from that contract. We were looking to the future very positively, building on relationships, looking to the long term.

'We were disappointed the contract was brought to such an abrupt halt.' The leaks are the latest in a long list of problems to dog the 40,000 seat arena since its near $1 billion refurbishment in 1993.

It was touted as a world-class venue, but concerts have been banned, corporate suite holders have complained over the lack of bookings and the pitch has had to be replaced.