Wembley sale fell through?

The deal to sell Wembley Stadium has collapsed

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Is the end of a deal to sell Wembley Stadium good or bad?

By Joe Harker

The BBC reports that Fulham owner Shahid Khan has withdrawn his £600 million offer to buy Wembley Stadium after the plan became "more divisive than expected". The intention was for Khan to buy the stadium and the FA would keep the Club Wembley hospitality rights, but the FA council was not sufficiently united on selling England's national stadium. They had intended to invest the funds from the Wembley sale into grassroots football.

An FA councilor described the "hard sell" from chiefs who wanted to offload the stadium as a debacle, according to The Times. The matter split the FA so much that chief executive Martin Glenn and chairman Greg Clarke could have lost their positions had they continued to try and sell the stadium.

Damian Collins MP opposed selling Wembley and said he was relieved that the offer had been withdrawn. He also questioned whether the FA would have looked back at the decision to sell a decade later with regret. He said: "My concern was that the money would be spent and, in ten years time, we would look back and feel there was not nearly enough to show for it, and no stadium either.

"There must be more imaginative ways of tackling grassroots funding and there is a lot more work to do to get funding right. Some of the poorest communities don't have local authorities or charities that can match funding from the Football Foundation."

Part of the reason why there was support for selling Wembley was because the money was intended to fund grassroots football. However, finding money to improve the game at the foundations is not mutually exclusive with keeping Wembley.

The Premier League is ridiculously wealthy and is often accused of not doing enough for grassroots football. Writing in The Guardian, David Conn suggests top flight clubs need to do more.

The Premier League's TV deal from 2016 to 2019 is worth £8.4 billion but not enough of that money is going towards the game at grassroots level. There's plenty of funding in football, it's just going to the wrong place. Former Premier League star Gary Neville suggested placing a levy on agent fees to raise more money.

Fans had also grown cold on proposals to sell Wembley. Some feared it would become Fulham's home ground after the sale. Others found it hard to believe that £600 million from the sale would find its way to grassroots football. There is also a sense of national pride tied up in Wembley that should not be discounted. Selling Wembley would be like "selling Buckingham Palace to Donald Trump" in the words of a player at grassroots level.

Selling Wembley was never the only solution to making funding available for grassroots football. If the FA wants to secure money it can use for investment then it should take a look at the financial juggernaut that is the Premier League before it decides to sell the national stadium.

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