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The Wembley National Stadium Construction Essay

It was built to be the new ‘home of football’; to be one of the largest and magnificent stadiums in the world and designed to be state-of-the-art with a seating capacity of 90,000. Designed by the World Stadium Team led by Mott MacDonald, the Wembley Stadium now stands as the most expensive stadium ever built, the longest single-span roof structure in the world (315m), second largest stadium in Europe and the tallest in the world (133m) with every seat under roof cover.

The concept was to build a state-of-the-art stadium, with none that can compare anywhere else in the world. The new stadium has a partly retractable roof which can be adjusted to allow sunlight to reach all parts of the pitch. During bad weather, the roof can be retracted in about 15 minutes to cover every seat (http://www.designbuild-network.com/projects/wembley/).

£120 million from the Lottery Fund was invested into the stadium with an additional loan of £426 million through West Deutsche Landesbank. A fixed price contract was reached between the client and contractors. This made provision for a building cost of £352 million and total project costs of £757 million (Public Accounts Committee, 2004).

However, like most iconic construction projects of national interest, the Wembley project was not spared its own share of controversies, accusations, rumours, anxieties and fascination. The Football Association (FA) must have imagined a spectacular 2006 FA Cup grand finale, the biggest UK soccer championship at Wembley National Stadium. Unfortunately, this important event had to be moved all the way to Wales! What was wrong? Wembley Stadium's extraordinarily ambitious re-development was utterly behind schedule. The project later opened in March 2007, almost a year behind schedule and £70million over budget and has since then kept some of the finest construction lawyers in constant employment.

The Wembley Stadium concept was definitely ambitious and the product stands now impressively. Even more breathe taking is the 133m arch which when lit up at night shinning gloriously, and can even be seen across London. Wembley has indeed become England’s new icon of football.

The client for the project was the Football Association (FA) working through its subsidiary the Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL). The main contractor was Multiplex Constructions with Mott MacDonald being the Lead Designers. The project used two project advisors; Tropus at the initial stages (1997-2001) and Capita Symonds (2001-2006). The initial steel contractor was Cleveland Bridge

2.0 Problems during the project

A litany of problems can be identified that bedevilled the construction of the Wembley Stadium mainly adversarial contracts, unreasonable risk allocation, cash-flow problems, design changes, poor performance, poor site management and litigations. These are presented in details below:

Delays and indecisiveness even before the project begun: Plans for a new stadium were beset with delays, management problems and increasing costs since December 1996. The designs were revealed in 1999 and the stadium should have been completed in 2003 but the work itself started only in September 2002 due to many political and financial problems. The project was finally rescheduled to complete in May 2006 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2119413.stm).

Design Problems: Multiplex argued that ‘Mott MacDonald`s design for the Wembley steel work was not fit for purpose and that the initial designs were not correct, constructible, co-ordinated and consistent.’ It further stated that 'Mott MacDonald's deficient design, failure to warn and/or take action is shown in many thousands of individual acts or omissions' (Technology and Construction Court (TCC), 2006).

Scope Creep: The initial scope was to accommodate athletics, rugby and football in the same stadium. This later became very controversial and resulted in the removal of athletics from the scheme in 1999, because of the technical and commercial challenges of accommodating the three sports within the same stadium. In December 2001, the scope was further changed with the removal of a hotel from the project, the expansion of hospitality suites and considerable changes to the north side of the stadium bowl. This took the Mott Consortium 7-8 months to redesign. These changes increased the cost of the project especially in steel works (TCC, 2006).

Procurement Issues: In the conclusions of Public Accounts Committee (Eighth Report of Session 2003–04), it stated that “Best procurement practice has not been followed on what is a high profile project... Organisations responsible for managing projects should be expected to set out a formal procurement process, which treats all bidders equally to avoid giving any one a potential advantage over the others.” It further criticised Wembley National Stadium Limited for failing to follow a detailed and overt formal procurement process and having dialogue with Multiplex prior to starting the procurement process. A report by former Wembley project manager Tropus, said ‘the appointment was made with undue speed.’ The James Report also concluded that there had ‘been serious flaws in the procurement policies.’(James Report, 2002)

Poor Communication: Apart from the major changes in the scope of the works, Multiplex lamented not given access to vital design information which made them underprice the steelwork. Mott on the other hand thought “Multiplex was aware of the state of design, having managed the design process and having been intimately involved in the design work.” (Wembley Stadium into Injury Time, 2002)

Poor Planning and organisation: A lot of decisions seem to have been made hastily. No wonder several changes had to be made at later stages. When it became a prime objective to finish the project in time for the FA Cup finale in May 2006, efficiency and cost effectiveness became secondary issues. In my opinion, a lot of problems could have been avoided if Multiplex did not have to rush the job to meet unrealistic deadlines. Multiplex claims that it has sustained significant losses as a result of a 'multitude of breaches of contract and/or acts of negligence' by the consultant, which had 'far-reaching effects' for Wembley (TCC, 2006; Baloch, 2008).

Disputes and disagreements: Cleveland Bridge (CB), the steel contractor terminated their contract in 2004 because they did not believe they would be paid for materials and that there were seemingly insurmountable difficulties between them and Multiplex. A sustained input from a steelwork subcontractor could have greatly influenced the timely completion of the project but eventually CB had to be replaced with all attending problems of a new project team member.

Health and Safety problems: In March 2006, a temporary roof support fell by over half resulting in the evacuation of all construction workers and delay of work. Another accident occurred January 2004 resulting in the death of one construction worker and the injury of another when a platform collapsed without warning, trapping the men underneath (http://www.designbuild-network.com/projects/wembley/)

Poor Performance by Cleveland Bridge: Delays were caused by CB as not all the steel sent to China could be fabricated in time to comply with the programme. So the steel sent to China was often shipped back to England with most not fabricated. Furthermore the steel sent to site was often missing crucial pieces (meaning it could not be erected) or else was untagged with the consequence that site staff could not identify the relevant pieces of steel (TCC, 2006).

Poor Supervision by Sports England: The Government was less than happy with the level of supervision offered by Sport England. It stated that “Sport England’s performance in monitoring the progress of the project has been lack, slovenly and supine.” This ultimately resulted in supply team missing the focal point of the project right from the beginning and before long, a lot was out of hand (Wembley Stadium into Injury Time, 2002).

Poor Stakeholder management: In a statement by The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee, it blamed some of the problems encountered on the project on poor stakeholder management. It said, “the project had been undermined by the ‘fundamental failure’ to include all representatives at the outset in planning the redevelopment” (www.publications.parliament.uk). The resignation of Ken Bates in 2001 as chairman of WNSL gives a further hint. He cited a lack of support from the board and that he had been undermined by senior figures within both the government and the FA. He remarkably said, "Even Jesus Christ only had one Pontius Pilate - I had a whole team of them." (www.forbes.com).

3.0 The Problems Encountered: The Role of Project Management

Project Management (PM) is the “. . . application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to achieve project requirements.” (PMBoK, 2004). This same theme runs through other standards for PM including BS6079 and ISO 10006. Suffice it for now to say that PM is the managerial responsibility and actions involved in completing a project on time, in budget and to the specified quality standards, in accordance with the traditional performance criteria. The role of PM in the Wembley project will now be appraised under some of the key knowledge areas identified in the PMBoK.

3.1 Project Scope Management This involves developing a scope statement that will define the boundaries of the project and verify the amount of work to be done. PM uses such tools as brainstorming, fast diagrams, Value Management workshops to define the project. This is because if you have the wrong definition, you may come up with the right solution—to the wrong problem!(Lewis, 2007). If scope definition is not holistically carried out, major changes such as those experienced on Wembley may occur later and cause delays, cost variations leading to claims and litigations. This, I believe, was the ‘akiles heel’ of this iconic project. Where change becomes inevitable, PM should manage them to protect the project from the effects of scope creep. Wembley failed in this area resulting in the considerable cost and time overruns. Lewis (2007) rightly said, “I have become convinced that projects seldom fail at the end. Rather, they fail at the definition stage.”

3.2 Project Time Management PM adorns itself with yet another accolade of being able to effectively estimate time frame for projects realistically and defining work packages and milestone to achieve this target. It employs one of its popular tools of Critical Path Method and scheduling in this respect. Many softwares including Primavera and MS Project have also been developed to helped in the management of time. Kaming (1997), Elinwa (2001) and Aibini (2006) however reveal that the occurrence of time overruns is high and that overruns can occur of projects irrespective of its size. Wembley was no exception. Some of the disputes, changes, cash flow problems, design problems etc. that caused resulted in the project being delivered in 10 months late and the subsequent changing of the FA Cup finals to Wales could have been avoided through effective project time management. PM should have helped to come out with a realistic duration for the project.

3.3 Project Cost Management This involves estimating the cost of all resources and such things as travel and other support details. After this is done, costs are budgeted and tracked to keep the project within that budget (Rad, 2002). This is very important in PM as the first question most clients ask is ‘how much will it cost?’ It is the duty of the PM to realistically determine what it will cost to achieve a particular scope. The tough question then arises. Was Wembley’s initial cost of £445million realistic? Why did cost rise astronomically to £757million at completion? The project even had to be stalled ‘into injury time’ just to seek additional funding. Why couldn’t PM prevent this? Much of the blame lies squarely on PM’s failure to realistically estimate cost at conception.

3.4 Project Communications Management “This is the processes required to ensure timely and appropriate generation, collection, dissemination, storage, and disposition of project information.” (PMBoK, 2004). Multiplex claims it was not given access to vital design information and that this led to increased steelwork costs. Mott MacDonald on the other hand dismisses this saying, “Multiplex was aware of the state of design, having managed the design process and having been intimately involved in the design work” (TCC, 2006). PM is supposed to create a smooth communication interface between all parties to forestall these misunderstandings.

3.5 Project Procurement Management This helps in selecting the most appropriate contractors and suppliers, administers the contract as well as form the best working relationships between all parties to achieve project goals. The Public Accounts Committee (2003–04), stated that “Best procurement practice has not been followed on what is a high profile project...” PM should have also salvaged the problem between Mott, Cleveland and Multiplex before it got out of hand, resulting in Cleveland walking away from the project with its attending problems. More also, it is known that competitive tendering and cost as a selection criteria has produced poor results in construction over the years and PM should have helped in designing the best procurement approach to prevent the problems (Egan, 1998).

The contract used for the project was fixed cost method in which the client cleverly shirks risk to the contractor. This form of contract invariably results in creating an adversarial environment with where each party involved focuses their attentions on the needs and risks of their businesses as opposed to those of the project (Morriss, P. and Hollis, A., 2005).This may well be another area that grossly affected the results on Wembley and effective PM should have prevented this.

3.6 Stakeholder Management: Freeman and McVea (2001) describe this function as “looking out from the firm or project and identifying, and investing in all the relationships that will ensure long-term success.” At concept stage, this is used to collect views of all interested parties, especially those of end users who usually hold vital information that may be critical to the design, function and success of a project. If this was effectively done, it would have prevented the acrimony that grew between some of the contractors and would have saved the project from unnecessary delays and increased cost of replacing Cleveland Bridge. It would have helped to produce the best fitting design as well as sort out the fact that athletics, football and rugby in the same venue would present a lot of technical and functional difficulties at the design stage saving the project from about 8 months of redesign.

3.7 Site Management: Chan (1997) showed that out of 8 group factors that caused delays in construction projects, poor site management and supervision was amongst the top five. The accusations and counter-accusations during the hearing at the Technology and Construction Court between Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge gives us yet another glimpse into an area of failure of PM on Wembley. The site was poorly managed as it was littered with random pieces of steel that had been delivered in the wrong order and a significant quantity of steel was sitting on trailers adjacent to the site or around the perimeter. This had the potential of disrupting flow of activities and even causing accidents (TCC, 2006).

4.0 The Actions and MeasureS that should have been taken

The influential Latham (1994) and Egan (1998) reports called for new approaches to construction- one in which client leadership is key and where there is greater collaborative working between firms within the construction supply chain. Egan summarised five key drivers of change namely 'committed leadership; a focus on the customer; integrated processes and teams; a quality driven agenda; and a commitment to people.' Some of the necessary actions and measures that should have been taken is now presented below:

4.1 Key Client Leadership: The new Terminal Five at Heathrow is a widely acclaimed example of current construction best practice. The approach was unique and tailored to the very needs of the project i.e. the client took a level of ownership of project thus creating a clear vision for how it wanted the project delivered and also staying close enough to the project from inception to completion (Brady, 2008). Latham (1994) recommended that “the client should be at the core of the construction process” because “clients [essentially] drive best practice.” Egan (1998). The Client in the Wembley Stadium project was the Football Association and thus should have:

stayed close enough to the project, monitoring it and to make sure things don’t go out of hand;

ensured that major changes to the scope of works was frozen at a particular point on the project or avoided altogether. These changes often result in dispute, delays and extra expense;

made sure that adequate funding was secured for the project before it even begun and that the estimation of both time and cost were realistically carried out;

come out with clear, concise, realistic and unambiguous objectives at the conception of the project involving all necessary stakeholders so that major changes, such as those that were experienced, could be avoided;

shared in risk of development/construction rather than cleverly shoving it to contractors.

4.2 The “Heathrow Method”: Terminal 5 was an audacious development project that involved more than 60 contractors and 16 major projects. British Airways Authority (BAA) adopted a unique approach to the project to make sure it is completed both on time and within budget. It used “an innovative form of cost-reimbursable contract - the ‘T5 Agreement’ under which BAA holds all the risks associated with the project rather than transferring the risks to external suppliers and guarantees a level of profit for suppliers.” (Brady, 2008). The Agreement included an incentive payment for contractors that achieved a certain level of performance. It decided to reimburse the costs of delivery and to reward exceptional performance and punish mediocre and poor performance only in terms of profitability. This created some sort of 'win-win' environment for all parties and motivated the contractors to focus their attention on the needs of the project and collectively solve problems rather than concentrate on their own business risks and interests. These are the fundamental reasons why T5 achieved the laudable success of staying within budget and cost at completion.

Cleveland would not have walked out of the job if it was given firm assurance of re-imbursement of cost incurred. The contracts should have been designed with an approach that offered incentives to all, for improvement in cost, time or quality and not in an adversarial environment associated with fixed cost contracts.

4.3 Integrating the Supply chain: Both Latham (1994) and Egan (1998) underscored the importance of using integrated teams to realise project goals. The T5 approach used by BAA combined two main principles: the client always bears the risk; and partners are worth more than suppliers. ‘It provides an appropriate environment for integrated team working […] to enable suppliers to work effectively and focus on meeting the project’s objectives not only in relation to the traditional time, budget, and quality measures but also in relation to safety and environmental targets’ (Brady, 2008). ‘By doing that you take away negativity, allow space for innovation and create any opportunity for people to perform at levels they haven’t been allowed to before’ (Mylius, 2005).

4.4 Involvement of end users: End users often hold vital information as they are usually in a better position to comment on the detailed requirements for a building than senior management who may not even be the occupants of the building when it is completed. After all, the users have first hand experience of what makes a building successful or otherwise (Menches, 2008). By the use of such methods as focus groups, value management workshops and major surveys, the issue of athletics, rugby and football in the same venue could have been resolved even before any detailed design and thus eliminating the extensive delays and cost implications it had on the project (Barrett, P., and Stanley, C., 1999).

4.5 Use of a Project bank: In an attempt to integrate project teams in an atmosphere of trust, collaboration and openness, the National Audit Office (NAO) of the UK suggested the use of a project bank account. To ensure better construction, it said, ‘...suppliers [require] greater certainty that they will be paid on time to re-enforce the trust that should exist between all parties for collaborative working to operate effectively.’ This was endorsed by the Specialist Contractors who indicated that ‘payments for the project delivery team should be protected and secure, which would, in turn, significantly reduce disputes and, more importantly, will encourage closer working relationships between all parties.’ (Parliamentary Newsletter, Issue 3, Spring/Summer 2006).

4.6 Best Project Management Practice: At the execution level, much of the problems that occurred on the project could have been avoided or its impact attenuated if best project management practice was adopted by all especially Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge. Problems of poor site management practice, poor or incorrect fabrication of steel, design change management and communication could have been arrested with proper planning, organisation and control.

4.7 Careful Monitoring: Projects rarely stay on track in terms of time and cost. the more likely occurrence is that projects will be behind schedule yet over budget at any point in time. Good project management carefully and critically appraises all factors that a likely to push a project off schedule (Office of Government Commerce, 2005). Monitoring progress carefully and instigating timely corrective actions by both WNSL, Multiplex as well as the FA, would have helped identify the likely impact of any problems so that action can be taken to get the project back on track.

5.0 Conclusion

Experience is a great asset to professionals practicing in any discipline, whether that experience comes from success or failure and whoever fails to learn from his mistakes is doomed to repeat them. Some of the key lessons on Wembley Stadium is thus now summarised below:

Adequate time and effort needs to be invested in the strategic planning phase of every project to come out with clear, realistic, and unambiguous project objectives;

Project team must engage effectively with users and other external stakeholders especially at the concept stage of any scheme to save the project from major changes with its attending problems;

Construction procurement must move away from competitive tendering and cost as the selection criteria and develop procedures that use performance and team partnering and capability;

Contracts must be designed to provide incentive to all for cost and time improvement and also forge a ‘win-win’ environment between clients and supply chain members;

Enough resources have to be made available for the project based on realistic estimates;

Clients must assume central roles in projects for they essentially drive best practice;

Continual change in project requirements and scope can be very detrimental for the project;

Dysfunctional relationships and fragmentation can turn a perfect project scheme into a complete chaos and thus project teams must operate as a cohesive unit, with clear allocation of roles and responsibilities.

Finally, it is evident, at least from the Wembley Stadium project that a poor knowledge and a lack awareness of the fundamental project management skills by the client can lead to failure as clients essentially drive best practice. An effective and successful outcome of project management on any project in most cases will only be achieved if both the client and the contractor or project management organisations are effective in the skills of project management. A poor client organisation, in terms of project management, may well drive a good project manager and his team into poor performance.

Agreeably, it may not be a panacea due to many circumstances and occurrences that may well be out of its control. However, Project Management stands the chance of producing laudable results if the construction industry stopped treating it casually and unprofessionally but rigorously apply the great worth of knowledge and experience its gathered over the past years, through both its success and failure stories.

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