PUBLIC SECT0R: Sport England lobbies for Wembley Stadium return

Sport England is on the lookout for lobbying support as it attempts

to speed up the controversial Wembley Stadium project.



According to a source at the body formerly known as the Sports Council,

civil servants at the Department for Culture Media and Sport are the

most important group to influence if work on the project is to

begin.



The source said: 'While ministers have changed, officials have stayed in

place and it is the officials that are dragging their feet. We believe

we could be on site by April and it is only government intervention

stopping that. We want to get the thing moving.'



Sport England has ploughed £120m into the Wembley project, £20m of which will be returned if athletics is not catered for in the

final plans.



Wembley was given preference over plans for a national sports stadium in

Birmingham late last year.



However, a final decision will not come until the spring, when officers

from the National Audit Office are expected to complete their review

into the spending of public money on the project.



Auditors were called in following criticism of the procurement

procedure, in a report commissioned by Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of

the Wembley National Stadium Ltd - the FA subsidiary set up to manage

the project.



The lobbying account for Sport England is held by three-year incumbent

AS Biss & Co, which is understood to be repitching for the work.



According to Sport England head of PA John Zerafa, agencies were due to

be seen this week.



He said that aside from the Wembley work the successful agency would

play a major role in its plan to gain more funding for sport than the

arts, as government departments consider their spending plans.



Zerafa, who joined two months ago from the PA manager role at ITV

Digital, heads a five-strong team.



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