SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

PSL plan under consideration for Wembley

A personal seat licensing plan is thought to be under consideration for Britain's new Wembley Stadium, where the architecture of the financing needs to be nailed into place soon, even as the physical blueprints remain up in the air.

Estimates on the new Wembley's cost have hit $760 million. The project is to get $192 million of National Lottery money, leaving owner Wembley National Stadium Ltd. to raise more than $560 million. A personal seat licensing plan could help trim the company's debt load.

The idea is that a portion — say 15 to 20 percent — of the 90,000-seat capacity planned for soccer would be sold to premium seat license holders, who would be guaranteed the right to buy tickets for events at the stadium for a specified period.

U.S. banks are among those jockeying to advise Wembley National on raising the money, and Wembley National is expected to choose a lead bank in early 2000. The National Lottery has given it a March deadline to have its financing proposal in place if it wants the $192 million.

The sale of "debentures" for the right to buy seats has been used as a financing tool by Wimbledon and Twickenham (the home of England's national rugby team).

Pricing is a key factor, but politics may play a bigger part in whether the idea ever gets off the ground. At issue: Would the Labour government consider the personal seat license concept sufficiently "democratic" for a national stadium?

Jay Stuart is editorial director of SporTVision magazine and Sports TV Report and Sports Investor newsletters.

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