Fifty-strong design team carries on "full steam ahead" despite radical rethink of entire plan.
The Wembley Stadium project team, which includes Foster and Partners and HOK Sport, intends to continue working "full steam ahead" on the £326m scheme even though it could be scrapped.

Insiders on the 50-strong team expressed confidence that the original design would remain intact despite client Wembley National Stadium's decision last week to withdraw its proposals after failing to win financial backing for them.

WNSL's move triggered an emergency meeting of the Football Association, which decided to ask it to commission six alternative plans. These will be submitted to potential funders in the spring.

An FA spokesman said: "The new proposals should range from giving the existing stadium a lick of paint to rebuilding it. We are asking for a range of plans because it needs to be demonstrated to people what options are available for such a high-profile project."

Both the design team and the FA insist privately that the original redevelopment, shorn of its commercial element, is the favoured option. It is understood that the original scheme's inclusion of office space and a hotel was a sticking point for its backers.

The rethink, revealed this week on Building's news website Live News, will set back plans for construction to start. Demolition of the existing stadium was due to begin in early 2001, but will now be delayed until a favoured option is chosen.

The proposals should range from giving the existing stadium a lick of paint to rebuilding it

Football association

Project sources claim the return of the athletics element, ditched by culture secretary Chris Smith last year, is not on the cards. One close to the FA said: "The FA is not likely to opt for a simple refurbishment. The stadium needs to be rebuilt; it's what the FA has wanted for years.

"There's always been the potential of building an athletics track. One could be erected in six months. But a track is unlikely to be part of the final plan because most athletics events don't attract many people or much money."

The 90 000 capacity is also expected to be kept in the plans, despite reports suggesting that 5000 seats would be removed.

One source on the team denied that the costs were sky-high in comparison with Stadium Australia and Stade de France.