May 30 – The chief executive of the English Football Association says the potential sale of the national stadium at Wembley will not be a “betrayal” but makes sound economic sense.
A bid for the iconic venue by US billionaire Shahid Khan, who also owns newly promoted Fulham as well as the NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars, is reported to be worth up to £900 million.
Under the deal the stadium would retain its name and reports say the offer is being carefully considered by the FA who would use the money to make a major investment into grassroots football.
The announcement last month nevertheless provoked outrage in some quarters with critics saying the FA was selling the soul of English football. But at the FA’s Council meeting at Wembley on Tuesday, CEO Martin Glenn (pictured) delivered a lengthy argument for maximising the financial potential of the stadium.
“Receiving an offer to sell Wembley Stadium is not a ‘betrayal’,” he said. “It is not selling the ‘soul of the game’. Nor is it a desperate action by a desperate organisation. We do not need to sell. There is no need for drama, emotive language or any ‘meltdowns’.
“What we have in front of us is simply an opportunity to unleash an unprecedented amount of investment into community football.
“It’s an opportunity to make the FA a more profitable organisation year-on-year and increase investment.”
Khan says he wants to host as many NFL games at Wembley as possible but that doesn’t faze Glenn who insists cup finals will not be impacted and use of the stadium will not be affected for large parts of the year.
“This is a moment where we need to choose what the FA is for, what our priorities should be. To be for all of English football, driving improvements in every community in England at every level of the game? Or for the ownership and careful management of an elite venue?”
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