Wembley Stadium is 90, 000-sitting-capacity sports ground located in Wembley Park, London. Initial plans for constructing the project started over two decades ago, specifically in 1996, with the demolition of the old pitch (twin towers), which was scheduled to begin early 2000. However, the project management team failed to agree on the kick-off date for the project. The actual demolition took place between 2002 and 2003, thus paving the way for the project execution phase by an Australian-based general contractor, namely, Multiplex.
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Following the contractor’s delays, the stadium’s construction took longer than expected. It was concluded in 2007. Indeed, even based on a new schedule, the stadium was completed a year late and more than five years concerning the original plan. Noting that the project was not completed as scheduled and that extra costs ad to be incurred, despite being initially designed as a fixed-cost contract, the Wembley Stadium project was a failure.
In the early months of 2007, Wembley Stadium was ready after years of construction marked by various difficulties. Different contractors, including those in London, placed their bids. However, because of the rising political debates, controversies surrounding the construction of the sports ground, and the tight project budget, some UK-based contractors chose to turn down their bids. Ultimately, the contract was awarded to Multiplex, an Australian-based construction company.
Multiplex was also the lowest bidder of the project. Nevertheless, the company’s project management team encountered various challenges, including making heavy losses. Project construction costs escalated tremendously after the bid acceptance. Some subcontractors such as Cleveland Bridge walked away from the ongoing work. Multiplex also took to court its major structural engineering consultant, Mott Macdonald, claiming the payment of 253 million sterling pounds in damages. Considering that the stadium took five more years to complete than originally expected after costing more than double the amount of initially estimated financial investments, it suffices to regard the project as a failure.
Extra Time and Money Spent
The Wembley Stadium project involved building a sports ground enclosing 4,000,000 m3 of space within its walls and the roof. This massive structure required 3,000 tonnes of steel and 90,000m3 of concrete (Kable 2018). The roof structure encloses an area of 11 acres while the top rises 52 meters when measured from the pitch. In other words, Wembley Stadium is the second-largest sports arena in the world after Nou Camp Stadium that is located in Barcelona having a sitting capacity of 98, 000 people. Table 1 below shows a breakdown of the number of various service units in the stadium.
Table 1. Service Units at Wembley Stadium.
|Toilets||2618||Food and Drink Service Points||688|
The success of such a massive assignment occurs upon the implementation of various tasks, which lead to the delivery of a sustainable project within its scope, the set time, and monetary resource constraints (Kivila, Martinsuo & Vuorinen 2017). Since the goal of executing any project entails mitigating all avenues of failure, London Wembley Stadium’s project manager (Symonds) needed to establish criteria for measuring the failure or the success of the project.
The lack of such an assessment plan may be regarded as part of the challenges incurred. Such criteria may define success as the completion of the project in a manner that delivers its deliverables within the planned scope, irrespective of the time taken or resources consumed. However, from a project management perspective, completing Wembley Stadium outside the allocated time and monetary resources amounted to failure of the project (Taylor 2015).
Breakdown witnessed in the execution of the Sydney Opera House, planned to take four years of construction, starting from 1959 and for $7million, supports this criterion of assessing project failure or success. The project was concluded in 1973 at a cost of over $100 million (De Carvalho & Junior 2015) to the extent of making project managers consider it a failure. In the case of the London Wembley Stadium venture, while it was scheduled for conclusion in 2006, the project was completed in 2007, with costs increasing by 36% from the time of accepting the bid to the period of signing it.
Indeed, since contractual terms indicated that it was a fixed-cost project, which shielded the client from cost overruns, the general contractor, Multiplex, incurred losses, but was obliged by the contractual terms to deliver the project at the agreed cost.
Poor Project Scope Development
The team selected to carry out the assigned also failed regarding the fulfillment of the project scope since no activities were accomplished as stipulated. However, determining the extent of failure requires an examination of what the scope entailed. Scope management encompasses components such as scope initiation, scope planning, scope verification, scope definition, and scope change and control (Aubry & Lavoie-Tremblay 2018).
In the case of the Wembley Stadium project, the announcement of the intention to construct the pitch after demolishing the old sports ground that stood in its place marked the scope initiation phase. Regarding scope planning, the project management team was required to construct a sports arena with a capacity of 90,000 people (Kable 2018). Scope planning ensures that all the activities undertaken are geared towards the achievement of this stipulated capacity. Therefore, scope planning facilitates the process of allocating time and monetary resources to the project.
According to Larson and Gray (2014), the term scope definition is used to refer to the subdivision of all major deliverables of the project into small convenient tasks. Wembley Stadium project deliverables included a circumference of 1 km and the incorporation of a steel arch that could provide value through its aesthetic appeal and support for the southern and northern roof to eliminate the need for internal columns (Williams & Parr 2006).
Additionally, the stadium was to have an underground power supply spanning a distance of 54 km. Scope verification is yet another important aspect of scope management, which involves “formalizing the acceptance of the project scope” (De Carvalho & Junior 2015, p. 327). In the context of the London Wembley Stadium project, scope verification was realized via carrying out assessments followed by appropriate consultations on the likely impacts of the desalination plant. The process of scope change and control entails appraising the scale of the task under execution (Bhatt 2017). The assessment study for the Wembley Stadium project helped to determine whether the project was feasible. Hence, this process did not impede setting the project in the next phase of its execution.
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Nevertheless, UK-based contractors argued that the scope was poorly defined in addition to the project having tight contractual terms (Kable 2018). Hence, little room was left for scope change, a situation that suggested the likelihood of the failure of the project beginning from the initial phase. Indeed, scope changes were experienced. Moreover, the arch’s construction, which constituted a fundamental aspect of the initial design, caused major delays. Hence, the project could not be completed as scheduled. This situation undermined an important aspect of project scope change management that requires any change to be consistent with the available time and monetary resources for any success to be recorded.
Poor Change Management
In construction projects, various decisions are made as the work progresses (Newton 2009). Such decisions mainly stem from incomplete information acquired through assumptions or the experience of professionals involved in the construction process. When practical and factual information is acquired, change becomes inevitable (Kang 2015). Thus, the success or failure of projects depends on how project managers handle change throughout different project phases. Change may involve proactive and reactive approaches. In construction projects, change is adopted when a need for a new way of executing a task arises (Shipton, Hughes & Tutt 2014).
Nevertheless, it may also be adopted when a crisis occurs to the extent of rendering the current approach, technique, or technology unsuitable for the task being undertaken. The term transactional or premeditated change describes this form of modification (Lyke-Ho-Gland 2017). Change management in projects ensures that workers are prepared to face this alteration to minimize incidents of a project failure following any form of resistance from stakeholders (Andersen 2008). In the process of executing a project, managers can adopt change. Thus, as Henry (2011) asserts, project managers also play the function of identifying periods when a crisis is overdue, including setting the vision and goals of project change to mitigate failure.
In the case of the Wembley Stadium project, although the arch was finally erected in place, it led to a considerable failure in the project following the delay witnessed. The structural contractor, Cleveland, warned the general contractor (Multiplex) about increasing the cost of the project (Kable 2018).
Nevertheless, the general contractor insisted that Cleveland had to fulfill its contractual agreement. The tension was built between the parties to the extent of forcing Cleveland to walk off the site with the arch not lifted in place. Hence, the inability to change the nature of the project (fixed cost) amid the rising expenses for Cleveland to maneuver its costs or engage in a profitable business explains the failure to erect the arch in time as originally planned. Indeed, following such a delay, another company, Hollandia, ultimately took over the job and lifted the arch in place.
Apart from the inability to change the nature of the project, the Wembley Stadium project experienced yet another change management problem. The design of the arch was not tested elsewhere. It was an innovative arch. Unfortunately, even where problems emerged, implementing a new idea without any other alternative mechanism of supporting the roof suggested that the project would not meet its deliverables without the arch.
According to Swmoore (2011, para. 9), “the fundamental issue was attempting a stadium design using a load-bearing arch that was novel and untested in previous stadium designs.” Arguably, innovative projects are always characterized by failures related to change management as witnessed in the Denver Airport Baggage System (Hughes 2016). Therefore, according to Crawford, Pollack, and England (2006), learning from the case of the Wembley Stadium project, projects that have formal timelines and fixed budgets to the extent that adjustments cannot be met to cater for unforeseen or emerging challenges do not call for prototyping untested or unproven techniques and processes.
Any critical change in projects leads to various delays that overrun a project schedule. It leads to the re-estimation of various project tasks while at the same time creating the need for an extra demand for labor, equipment, and sometimes, working overtime. When project managers do not address such changes proactively through a formal process, it becomes a central concern and causes for disputes in the execution of a project (Larson & Gray 2018).
This situation severely affects the whole project to the extent of causing failure. Indeed, the need for changing the budget allocation to Cleveland led to the contractor walking off the site while having not fulfilled its contractual obligation with the general contractor, Multiplex. This move triggered conflict between the two parties. They sued each other for damages. Multiplex won the case, although damages granted by the court were much lower compared to what it had sued.
Recommendations and Conclusion
Contractors based in the UK kept on placing and withdrawing their bids concerning the Wembley Stadium project citing political tension around the project, strict budget allocation, and the lack of a clearly defined scope. Multiplex, the lowest bidder, secured the contract. However, the challenges cited by UK-based contractors came into play in the process of implementing the project. Multiplex had not correctly estimated the cost of the project.
This challenge emerged from the fact the project was largely innovative. Hence, some techniques and aspects such as the innovative arch had not been tested elsewhere to yield a more reliable forecast of the cost involved. Hence, contractors should not take up an innovative project on a fixed-cost basis. Rather, such a project should provide the room for cost re-estimation while still in progress to pave the way for adjustments of costs associated with scope changes and various expenses incurred following other alterations, for instance, the need for new materials and structural loading techniques
The case of the Wembley Stadium project demonstrates that change is inevitable in all construction endeavors. Such change emanates from various sources or causes. It can occur at any phase where it may have severe negative overall implications for completion deadlines and costs. The Wembley Stadium project was completed five years later contrary to the original plan. While Multiplex quoted a price of 458 million sterling pounds, the eventual cost stood close to £900 million.
Multiplex and fans visiting the stunning state-of-art-the-stadium can smile with satisfaction looking at the ultimate product. However, considering that time and financial resources are the main constraints of a project, the Wembley Stadium assignment was delayed to the extent of costing more than double the original cost. Hence, from a project management perspective, it failed.
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