Feud between contractor and steel firm intensifies as football celebrities turn a blind eye to pickets at topping out

Multiplex has threatened steel contractor Cleveland Bridge with legal action over statements that it has made since it was taken off the Wembley national stadium project.

Multiplex issued the warning in letters to the firm, which is based in Darlington, Co Durham. A Multiplex spokesperson said: “They have left us with no option other than to inform them we’re monitoring their comments.”

He said Multiplex would take steps to prevent further disparaging remarks about Multiplex and Wembley, although it is understood that it has not yet issued any writs.

Multiplex has raised the stakes in its stand off with Cleveland Bridge on the eve of a ceremony to top out the arch.

The celebration, which was to take place shortly after Building went to press, was due to be attended by prime minister Tony Blair, Sven-Goran Eriksson, the England manager, and David Beckham, the England captain. However representatives of Cleveland Bridge, the firm that erected the arch, were not invited.

The subcontractor said in a statement: “Cleveland Bridge worked within the design, engineering and construction teams at the new Wembley stadium for more than two years and used its unique skills and expertise to fabricate, build and erect the distinctive Wembley arch ahead of schedule. It is disappointing to not be with the rest of the team to mark this achievement.

“There is no doubt that the arch is a brilliant piece of engineering and one of which we are very proud. The arch, a stunning architectural feature brought alive by Cleveland Bridge, deserves to be celebrated. Every member of our team, every family in Teesside and every one of the more than 500-strong Cleveland Bridge construction workers, staff and engineers who worked on this project are proud of their achievements and will toast its success quietly tonight, as they know that they made what some thought impossible, a reality”.

Guests at the ceremony will have to make their way past hundreds of Cleveland Bridge workers who are demonstrating outside the site. The GMB union has agreed to support this picketing action.

More than 200 workers from Cleveland Bridge were transferred to an employment agency last month after the subcontractor was taken off the project by Multiplex.

They were then sacked because of disputes over working hours and the fact that some were to be made redundant.