Wembley Sale: For or against?
Shahid Khan wants to buy England's spiritual home. In a staggering £800 million deal, he has offered to purchase Wembley. The FA would retain Club Wembley, valued at £300 million. The Three Lions would continue to call the stadium home, and the FA Cup Final would remain in London. Khan may have made an offer the FA can't refuse.
The Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner sees England's national stadium as a perfect venture in which to expand his already vast financial empire. Among other things, he would use the venue to host concerts. Khan also views purchasing Wembley as an important step in bringing an NFL franchise to England. His Jaguars have played there once a season since 2011. The side from the comparatively small NFL market has seen its social media following rise exponentially as British NFL fans seek a franchise to support. Khan can see the money and potential.
But what would the impact be on the English game? Let's invoke Ross from Friends and draw up a pros and cons list.
The FA have promised, should they accept the bid, significant investment will be injected into the grassroots game. Not a week goes by where there is not an indicting and damning report on the messy state of grassroots football. Pitches are beyond repair. There is a shortage of referees. There is also a shortage of funding. The FA have long been held responsible for its decline.
Before proceeds can be dispersed, £191 million of the fee will be used to repay the outstanding loan, originally set to be satisfied by 2024. The remaining £500 million? The grassroots game should see a sizeable proportion of that money. That's if you trust the FA.
FA Cup magic?
With the FA no longer having to repay their loan, they would not be forced to stage semi-finals at Wembley. Gate receipts were vital to their loan repayment. It's why England have played their matches exclusively at Wembley, as well.
Traditionalists have long pined for a return to semi-finals at historic grounds across the country. Old Trafford and Villa Park exist as the historic venues, but a flux of new stadiums including Stamford Bridge, the Emirates, Anfield's expansion, and Spurs' new venue would provide multiple options should the FA decide return to the good ol' days.
The New Wembley was a vanity project for the FA. Demolition of the old ground and creation of a new, dazzling arena was meant to draw the envy of other nations. For all that, Wembley still has a cultural hold over football in England. There is sentiment attached to the moniker "Home of English football".
Some see this as yet more evidence of society being dominated by the wealthy. 'Now they are even taking our sacred home'.
True enough, there is something to be said. Part of its magic, its inspiration, will be sapped. It will no longer represent English football. Wembley will just be another arena for major events.
Don't expect ticket prices to be reduced. If football fans were irked about the extortionate price for any footballing occasion at Wembley, they are likely to be fuming should Khan's bid be successful.
The FA, in all likelihood, would have liked to raise ticket prices even more. Indeed, they have done so for this year's FA Cup Final. Public outrage was the only deterrent to further hikes. The FA are supposed to represent the public, loose as the connection may be. There will be no moral obligation prohibiting a price hike at Wembley with a private owner.