London – Football Association (FA) chief executive Martin Glenn is adamant his plan to sell Wembley is not a betrayal of English football.
American tycoon Shahid Khan has offered a reported £600 million to buy the iconic national stadium, but the FA’s decision to consider the bid provoked outrage last month.
Wembley is the spiritual home of the sport in England and reopened in 2007 after a seven-year rebuilding project that cost £757 million.
But the FA believe selling to Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Khan would be a major boost to grass-roots football in England, with around £500 million ear-marked to be ploughed back into the lower levels of the game in the first three years after the sale.
At the FA’s Council meeting at Wembley on Tuesday, Glenn argued for maximising the financial potential of the stadium.
“Receiving an offer to sell Wembley Stadium is not a ‘betrayal’,” he said in his speech.
“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.”
Glenn has defended the selling price as being in line with the market value and also stressed the FA would still retain the restrictions they specified when it was built.
These cover issues such as denying naming rights and resale options through to 2057, while also retaining all scheduled major sporting events such as England internationals and the FA Cup final and semi-finals.
“The price offered is the result of many months of work by ourselves and the leading investment banking advisers Rothschilds,” Glenn added.
“It is considerably higher than the first offer received and represents good value for a part of the organisation that makes us relatively little money and which the running and upkeep costs will only continue to increase.
“Dispassionately the deal makes economic sense. There is no alternative option to rent to the Jaguars.
“Renting Wembley Stadium would not improve our financial position; it would retain our liability for improving the stadium and would not release any value for us.”
However, not all members of the Council are in favour, with Brian Adshead telling Sky Sports News: “We (should) keep ownership of the stadium.
“We don’t want to sell it at all. We can continue to raise income for the whole of the game by hanging on to the whole of the stadium.”