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Wembley client boss 'missing meetings'

NEWS - Wembley National Stadium Limited's project manager 'on gardening leave'

THE FUTURE of the man in charge of building work for the client at Wembley stadium was uncertain this week with speculation growing that he has left the project.

Mike Richardson joined the scheme in 2003 as Wembley National Stadium Limited's project manager - or employer's agent - but he is believed to have been on gardening leave since the beginning of the month.

His day-to-day responsibilities have now been taken over by his number two, Martin Whife - who was already seconded over to WNSL from consultant Capita Symonds.

One subbie still on the job said: 'We've heard Richardson doesn't attend any of the meetings with Multiplex any more.'

WNSL declined to comment other than to say Mr Richardson, an ex-Atkins director, was still on its payroll .

Last week WNSL chief executive Michael Cunnah left the scheme after enduring a fraught relationship with Multiplex in 2006, firmly pointing the finger of blame for the delays at the door of the Aussie builder.

He has been replaced by the FA's g roup finance director Alex Horne.

Mr Cunnah has been rumoured to be on the way out since the autumn, when he didn't appear at the signing of the peace deal between WNSL and Multiplex that averted a £350 million High Court legal battle.

Multiplex is hoping to finish work at Wembley by the end of January and is waiting to hear if it has won a deal to carry out a facilities management contract to help WNSL look after it.

WNSL is believed to be planning an emergency exercise behind closed doors at the end of February, with the first test event - likely to be in front of 60,000 fans - due to take place a few weeks later.

That event is likely to be held in March. The second trial between Multiplex and its former steelwork contractor on the project, Cleveland Bridge, is due to begin on March 20.

The pair are arguing over how much they owe each other after Mr Justice Jackson ruled earlier this year that CBUK had broken the law when it left the site in August 2004.