Wembley Stadium sale: FA chief Glenn says grassroots opportunity exists

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Shahid Khan – If you love English football, Wembley deal must go ahead

The sale of Wembley stadium represents an “opportunity” rather than a “betrayal”, says Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn.

Fulham owner Shahid Khan has offered £600m for the stadium, but the FA faces criticism over a potential sale.

In a speech to the FA Council, Glenn said there was no need for “drama” or “meltdowns” over the issue.

Wembley Stadium sale: FA chief Glenn says grassroots opportunity exists
Wembley Stadium sale: FA chief Glenn says grassroots opportunity exists

“This is an opportunity to unleash an unprecedented amount of investment into community football,” he said.

Glenn added: “Receiving an offer to sell Wembley Stadium is not a ‘betrayal’. 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, and we can and will do the things we have planned to do no matter what.”

‘What are the FA’s priorities?’

Martin Glenn
Martin Glenn claims 150,000 grass roots matches have been postponed this year

Glenn said Khan’s offer was the only one the FA had so far received and reiterated the governing body’s stance that the funds could accelerate its plan to improve facilities in grassroots football and grow the women’s game.

One FA Council member has told the BBC the mood around a potential sale is “pretty hostile”.

But Glenn insisted the impact could be “transformational” and that around £500m could be ploughed into the grassroots game in the first three years after the sale.

He detailed how the finance generated could help the FA potentially invest over £1bn in the English game by 2030 and still have a £450m capital fund untouched.

He added: “The opportunity for the whole game is, I believe, transformational.

“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?”

Wembley Stadium cost £757m and opened in 2007
Wembley Stadium cost £757m and opened in 2007

Khan – who also owns NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars – has said anyone who “loves English football” should “want” the deal.

His £600m offer would not include acquiring the FA’s Club Wembley hospitality business, valued at £300m and Glenn also stressed Khan would inherit all the restrictions the FA has worked within, including usage, any potential name change and resale options.

A large number of the 127 council members are thought to be against the move, while EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey has said any sale could only proceed if Football League clubs received 50% of what remained after outstanding costs had been met.

In his speech, Glenn acknowledged some people had “emotional and personal” reactions to the prospect of losing ownership of the national stadium.

But he is adamant cup finals will not be impacted and use of the stadium will not be affected for large parts of the year.

The FA is thought to owe around £113m to public bodies including Sport England for their role in financing the construction of Wembley, which cost £757m and opened in 2007.

Glenn stressed only a sale would provide tangible benefit to the organisation, because renting the venue to Khan would still see the FA liable for costs attached to the stadium.

In highlighting what he called “cold facts” Glenn claimed 150,000 grassroots matches had been postponed this year and that England still only had half as many 3G pitches as Germany.

He added: “It’s an opportunity to make the FA a more profitable organisation year-on-year and increase investment [and] to reconnect the England team with its fans up and down the country.”

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