Stadiums in stasis as Buckingham sale outcome awaited

The owners of three major stadiums are awaiting the outcome of efforts to sell Buckingham Group, as progress on the projects remains in limbo.

Last week the contractor, which employs around 660 people, announced it had ceased trading after filing a notice of intention to appoint administrators. The notice gives it 10 working days’ protection from action by creditors.

The £665m-turnover firm was working on jobs including Liverpool Football Club’s new Anfield Road Stand, Fulham Football Club’s Riverside Stand, and Casement Park in Belfast for the Ulster Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

Buckingham workers left the £80m Anfield job on Thursday last week (17 August) after the company announced its position.

Liverpool FC chief executive officer Billy Hogan said on the club’s website on Wednesday (23 August) that the club recognised the impact that the contractor’s potential administration could have on the livelihoods of its workers, subcontractors and suppliers.

The job had originally been due for completion this summer, with that date since being pushed back to October.

Hogan added: “We are in a bit of a holding pattern right now based on the news that we got on Thursday and that needs to reach its conclusion before we can truly start to take the next steps. But if Buckingham does enter into administration then we’ll need to address any delays that may arise from completing the new stand as a result of that.

“Obviously we will of course work with Buckingham and any other contractors who may be appointed in the future to retain as many of the existing jobs and expertise which have been a part of the project all along.”

The contractor was also set to deliver Belfast’s £140m Casement Park in a joint venture with Heron Bros, with work scheduled to begin next year.

The stadium is on the list of venues due to host matches at the Euro 2028 football tournament, if the joint UK and Ireland bid to host the event is successful.

Client Ulster GAA has been contacted for comment on the issue.

In a statement to broadcaster RTÉ last week, it said: “[We] will continue to monitor the situation closely, assessing what affect (if any) this may have on the future delivery of our project. We remain fully focused on work commencing on site early next year.”

In Buckingham Group’s last set of published accounts, for the year to 31 December 2021, it posted a pre-tax loss of £10.7m, blaming an “anticipated” £14.2m hit from its work on redeveloping Fulham FC’s Riverside Stand. It said the hit was due to a subcontractor going under and the final figure was expected to be subject to further negotiation with the west London club.

A statement released by Fulham two days before Buckingham filed its notice of intent to appoint administrators, expressed the club’s frustration with repeated delays on the job, which it said were partly due to “remedying issues arising out of the construction of the new stand”.

“Both the club and fans have been anticipating the full opening of the stand, which we had hoped would be by now, and we understand supporter frustrations. Rest assured that work continues diligently to deliver on the promise of a truly remarkable and world-class experience,” it said.

Fulham FC has been contacted for further comment on the issue, in light of Buckingham ceasing trading.

Buckingham Group said it had no further comment on its future this week. Last week a company statement said that three unnamed stadium and arena contracts, as well as a “substantial earthworks job” in Coventry had caused it deep losses.

“It is with immeasurable regret that the Buckingham board has to announce that rapidly escalating contract losses and a sharp reduction in liquidity, together mean the company is unable to continue trading at this current time,” it said.

Its board would “liaise with clients and interested parties to optimise any solution” as they look to sell the business, the statement added.

As Construction News has previously examined in depth, stadium jobs have a historic reputation for causing losses for contractors, including Multiplex after it delivered Wembley Stadium and former companies such as Ballast and Laing Construction.

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