Wembley Stadium sale shows exactly what is wrong with the FA

A proposed deal of up to £900 million is being discussed by the FA as they consider selling Wembley stadium to Shahid Khan.

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(Photo credit: Reuters/Paul Childs)

When the FA demolished the old Wembley Stadium it was done on the proviso that we would get a brand new sparkly home for British football. 

A stadium for the fans. The nations football palace. 

Yet news broke this week that the FA were considering selling the stadium to Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan for a figure between £500 – £900 million depending on who is reporting it.

But is the sale really a bad idea?

National Stadium

Now we all have opinions on Wembley stadium ranging from it being a waste of money to it being the home of football. 

Yes, the stadium cost a staggering £757 million when it was finally completed in 2007. As astronomical as that figure is, the FA were getting a stadium that was likely to last them another 100 years. The crown jewel of European stadia fit to host any event from World Cup, European, and domestic finals to even the NFL, boxing, and concerts.

This was a stadium that was to become a national treasure that English people could be proud of. 

Because of this, we were all shocked and appalled to hear that the FA are seriously considering selling the stadium because of its lack of profitability. Our national stadium to be sold by the FA, a huge corporation dedicated to the nations most popular sport is selling the stadium because of money?

Surely at this stage, the government should intervene and block any such sale? Maybe that is asking too much, but it seems crazy that the FA could sell the national stadium simply to make a quick buck without thinking of the long-term ramifications.

Put it this way if you sell Wembley does that mean Buckingham Palace is up for sale too? Big Ben? Westminster Abbey? London Bridge? Wembley stadium should be up there with those landmarks and for football fans it is. 

Wembley the NFL stadium

Curiously, Jacksonville Jaguars are arguably one of the smallest market NFL teams. They rank 21st in league attendance with a stadium that is edging on the older scale in American terms (built in 1995). 

Khan has the opportunity to move the fifth least valuable franchise in the NFL to a huge city that has welcomed the NFL product with open arms over the last ten years. A franchise that has a market of essentially 60 million people – bigger than any other current NFL franchise. 

So it seems almost inevitable that Khan is turning the national stadium into the home of the first overseas NFL franchise. Our national stadium home of an American sports franchise first and England second. 

Just let that sink in. 

Khan the businessman

While it is never prudent to second guess a billionaire. One has to consider the motives of Khan. Yes, he can move an NFL franchise into Wembley and host big events at the stadium. But what else is in it for him?

Fulham currently plays at Craven Cottage, a stadium situated in one of the most expensive areas of London. Khan can theoretically buy Wembley and sell Fulham’s stadium and make money. 

Clearly, this decision will be taken to make money, he will not buy Wembley stadium just to rid the FA of the burden of running it – he is looking to make a profit off it. This is just a purely speculative theory, but one that should worry football fans. 

The FA are custodians of our game

Ken Bates is a divisive figure, but he put this situation across better than I ever could when he spoke to Sky Sports. 

He said: “I’m saying it must not be sold. The FA are just the custodians of the national game for the people of this country.

“They have no moral authority to sell it as it doesn’t belong to them. The directors of the FA are just passing through, they are the trustees. How dare they even consider selling it. The FA never had a proper home until we got Wembley.” 

At the crux of this issue is the unease of English fans that the FA are essentially selling the home of the beautiful game.

The argument from the FA that they are going to reinvest this money into grassroots football looks them trying to convince people that this is the correct move. Do football fans really want to see the crown jewel of our sport sold to help fund grassroots football especially with the great wealth within the beautiful game currently?

If this decision has been made because of a lack of funding then the football authorities need to reassess how finances work in football. It seems to lack complete sense that the Premier League has such an abundance of wealth yet the authority that oversees them cannot afford to invest in football at the basic level. 

Final key points of the deal

So what do we know about a potential sale? Here are some key points to note. 

Where will England play?

England will still play at Wembley Stadium – but only if there are no NFL games happening

How will the FA use the money from the sale?

The FA still owes over £100 million to different organisations from the building of the stadium. They would likely pay those fees off and have said they want to invest in grassroots football.

So do the FA keep money from football games?

The FA will reportedly retain all the ticket money from events they hold at the stadium.

Will Wembley change its name?

Probably not for a few years as they still have two years to run on a current sponsorship with EE.

Where will domestic finals and playoffs be held?

All domestic games and playoffs will be held at the stadium and Euro 2020 fixtures will go ahead as scheduled.

Do you think selling Wembley Stadium is a good idea? Let us know in the comments section below.

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