Venture onto the official Wembley Stadium website and you will find some amazing statistics. The famed Arch is so tall, at 133 metres, that the London Eye could sit underneath it; were all the seats to be taken out and laid end to end, they would stretch for 54 kilometres (put another way, from here to Luton); and each of the stadium's giant replay screens is the equivalent of 600 domestic television sets.

There is another that might raise an eyebrow or two: while there could be up to 90,000 people per day at the Play-Off weekend to enjoy the spectacle and support their team, the numbers working during each day of the three Finals may be more than 5,000.

Little wonder that putting on an event of this scale can be almost as big a challenge to those charged with making it all run smoothly as the one the players face out on the pitch.

The stadium caterers provide the largest chunk of the workforce, with up to 2,000 -- including no fewer than 400 chefs -- on duty during each of the three Finals, which is not so surprising given that there are 98 on-site kitchens supplying eight restaurants and 34 bars among 688 food and drink service points. Taking into account banqueting facilities, among them the largest single banqueting hall in London, seating 1,900, there is the capacity to serve 10,500 dinners in a single day.

Then there are 1,500 stewards employed each day, each with at least 70 hours' training in first aid, customer care and crowd management, and an army of maintenance personnel. As soon as the crowds disperse, a 100-strong team will begin to clear the debris left behind, before moving inside, where another 50-100 will already be at work. The process of cleaning each of the 2,618 toilets, plus the four one-kilometre concourses, the bars and all the hospitality areas takes all night. With up to 40,000 pints of beer dispensed during half-time alone, a degree of spillage is inevitable.

A further 175 staff are engaged in running retail operations, including the restocking of 35 merchandise kiosks -- a task which can take four hours when trade has been brisk. And then there is the pitch, where five full-time groundstaff under the direction of head groundsman Steve Welch will oversee a full surface preparation between each match, even down to brushing the grass to remove footprints.

Add to those as many as 400 media representatives, up to 110 photographers and around 95 employed on Sky's television coverage and you can appreciate how the numbers stack up.

As the hosts, Wembley Stadium recruits the stewards and maintenance staff, while the resident caterers, Delaware North, look after their part of the operation. But the Play-Off weekend is The Football League's event and the responsibility for ensuring that all elements run smoothly is down to them, which is where Sandra Whiteside, The League's Events Manager, comes in.

With 41 years on The League's staff, Sandra has few peers when it comes to administrative experience, so if anyone can make everything work without any apparent hitches, she can.

Not that it is an easy job. Whereas the teams involved have ten days or less to focus on the event, Sandra's thoughts have turned to Wembley before March is out. With ticketing and security plans to consider, she must contact potential Finalists several weeks in advance.

"We need to get feedback that we can pass on to the stadium and the police, who need to know how many fans might be coming from each club," she said.

By the time the Finals are imminent, The League will have set up a suite of offices beneath the stadium, with around 25 staff on duty over the weekend, supervising arrangements for everyone from ballboys to the anthem singer, not to mention the Press, the pitchside liaison teams and the hostesses for up to 1,000 guests.

In the build-up, apart from distributing pre-printed final tickets to each of the semi-final clubs, one of the more taxing tasks is making sure there are no mistakes in the critical area of accreditation. "Everyone who comes into the stadium, down to the last contractor or delivery person, has to be accredited," Sandra said.

Making sure that the Finalists can see the stadium facilities in advance, and have training time on the pitch, is also The League team's responsibility. On the day, Stuart Morgan, The League's Partnership Manager and pitchside supremo, will be on hand to see that none of the pre-match entertainment interferes with the needs of the players.

Looking after the officials is a specialist task that is in the hands of former referee David Allison, who was in charge of the 1996 First Division Final between Leicester and Crystal Palace.

With the help of his wife Sheila, who looks after the wives and partners of the three referees and their assistants, David ensures, among other things, that the officials enjoy a peaceful preparation.

"We use the same, small hotel, about half an hour from the stadium, to accommodate them each year" he said. "They wouldn't stay in the same hotel as the players and I dine with them in a private room the evening before the match."

The matchday programme also requires a considerable team effort and a race against the clock. A separate programme for each Final is produced but the small amount of time between the semi-final second legs and the print deadlines makes things very complicated.

The Sunday Telegraph's Trevor Haylett, who as consulting editor pulls the editorial effort together, explained that a lot of articles have to be commissioned, written and laid into the page before the Finalists are known. "Then, once the second legs have taken place it goes absolutely manic for a few days," he said.

"Take last season for instance.Most of the Bristol City and Hull copy came in as we were checking on events at Carlisle the night before and tying up any loose ends as far as getting the Leeds articles written. We were also planning what we were going to do at Doncaster that night while looking at the following day's games at Rochdale and Stockport and preparing for those.

"We have so little time to get things done that there has been occasions when our reporters have gone onto the pitch while the winning team were celebrating with their fans to get an interview in the bag. It's pretty frenetic - but great fun as well."

Among Stuart Morgan's responsibilities is to liase with the broadcasters, including BBC and commercial radio stations, as well as ITV, who have television highlights rights, and the main broadcasters, Sky.

Sky's coverage is a major operation in itself, with their trucks moving in on the Wednesday before the Finals, when the riggers will begin to install four kilometres of cabling around the pitch and set up 32 cameras, including 25 fixed positions.

Producer Mark Scott hopes that, after a season of Football League coverage and a hectic schedule of semi-final games, his team peaks at the right time and puts on a show to match the occasion.

"You cannot worry about things going wrong but you have to feel confident you can overcome problems if they occur," he said. "The most important thing is that the lines of communication are working. You need to be able to talk to the presenter, the director, the video tape guys, the commentators and the pitchside reporters.

"You also have to make sure that you have lots of spares to hand rather than in a box in the back of a truck. It is very rare to get through an outside broadcast without some technical glitches."

Only when the final credits roll on day three's coverage will Scott feel able to relax. The Football League team will feel the pressure easing once the last of the three games is under way, knowing there are no more guest seating plans to devise, no more passes to give out. Staff might feel bold enough even to venture into the daylight to watch, although Sandra Whiteside may not be among them.

"I love this job and love doing the organising of a big event like the Play-Offs," she said, 'but I rarely get to see the games."