Even the suggestion FA bosses plan to plough £500m into grass roots projects around the country, allowing them to pay for hundreds of new 3G and 4G pitches, has hardly softened the mood.
And there appears to be much work left for the FA to do to convince angry supporters that the sale of the national stadium is not a step too far in the pursuit of big money.
Government will be pressured to intervene, says Tracey Boles, Sun Business Editor BRITAIN sometimes seems willing to flog anything, from Gordon Brown selling half the nation's gold stocks when he was chancellor, to companies such as Cadbury’s which was taken over by US giant Kraft in 2010.
Now Wembley stadium has become the latest takeover target after the Football Association confirmed today that it had received a bid.
The bidder is the billionaire owner of Fulham Football Club, Shahid Khan, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team.
The outrage was palpable: You can’t sell the crown jewels!
The reported size of the offer, at £500 million, is less than the stadium’s £800 million build cost.
To add insult to injury, the deal is set create the first NFL franchise outside the US – meaning the England football team may have to play autumn games across the country rather than at the home of English football.
Giving precedence to NFL matches would be highly risky for the stadium’s future prospects. Wembley’s most recent accounts state: “Hosting the most high profile showpiece events is critical to maintaining Wembley’s position as one of the world’s leading stadia.”
Of course, the devil will be in the detail, particularly what happens to Club Wembley. With turnover of nearly £57 million in 2016, it is the stadium’s real money-spinner.
It is understood the FA would look to retain this lucrative hospitality business.
A winner here could be grassroots football, said to be in line for a £500 million boost from the proceeds.
Will that be enough to appease English football’s army of fans? I doubt it.
The government frequently comes under pressure to tighten the rules around takeovers by foreign companies, most notably when Kraft made a play last year for Unilever, the consumer goods giant behind Marmite.
So far, it has been reluctant to intervene for fear of appearing protectionist.
With the chorus of approval set to rise, Wembley may turn out to be ministers’ biggest test of this stance yet.
Chief executive Martin Glenn believes the extra funds will revolutionise the lowest levels of the game in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
But traditionalists are likely to be scandalised at the FA “selling off the game’s Crown Jewels” after nearly two decades in which Wembley has drained the governing body’s resources.
WHO IS SHAHID KHAN? From $1.20 dollar an hour dishwasher to billionaire Wembley owner
If the deal is confirmed – likely to take months – the FA would no longer have any involvement in the day to day operation of the stadium, which cost a stunning £757m after the old Wembley was knocked down in 2000.
Khan plans to move his NFL franchise to Wembley, where it would become the first outside the USA, would also take all the revenue from the host of concert and conference events held at the stadium.
That would impact on the FA’s ability to host England’s autumn games at Wembley, during the NFL season, meaning the Three Lions could be forced to go “on the road” around the country.
The stunning move will cause anger among traditionalists, although the FA has only owned the site since 1999 and for 19 of the 95 years Wembley has existed.
Glenn and the FA will pledge to ring-fence half of the estimated revenues – £500m – in an endowment fund specifically for future grass roots projects, allowing the body to prioritise its focus on improving the game at all levels.
The FA believes the English game as a whole would gain more from that investment than by keeping hold of the bricks and mortar of the stadium.
It is understood that the FA would still receive the “Club Wembley” revenues from a fixed number of event dates, guaranteeing future funds in addition to the initial lump sum.
WEMBLEY Q&A What does £1billion sell-off mean for England, Chelsea and the NFL?
Khan is happy to provide guarantees over access to the venue outside the NFL window and is understood to have agreed the ground will still be known as “Wembley Stadium”.
Florida-based Khan, 67, who was born in Lahore and has joint Pakistani and US citizenship, is keen to keep flagship football events at Wembley.
An FA spokesman said: “We can confirm the FA Board has received an offer for Wembley from Shahid Khan.”
SHAHID KHAN – What he has to say
"Wembley Stadium would return to private ownership and The Football Association would be able to focus on its core mission of developing players with the best player developers and facilities anywhere in the game, thanks in part to the vast financial benefit that would result from the transaction.
"I trust many if not most of you are also supporters of the England national teams, so I hope you welcome the potential of this becoming a reality.
"Always know Wembley would be home to the England national teams, and that we would strive every day of the year to be the best possible steward for a venue that is iconic and beloved here and throughout the world."
MARK WALLER, NFL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT OF EVENTS AND INTERNATIONAL – OFFICIAL STATEMENT
"We are very happy for Shad Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"The potential purchase of Wembley Stadium is a further powerful sign of their commitment to the UK and their vision to help us grow the sport.
"Having stadium options in London has always been critical to the NFL and, in tandem with our 10-year partnership with Tottenham Hotspur, this new relationship would allow for even greater flexibility in scheduling future NFL games in London."
If the deal does go through, it will have no impact on the 2020 European Championships, in which seven games, including both semi-finals and the final, have been scheduled for Wembley.
Khan has no plans to move Fulham to Wembley and is currently engaged in a rebuilding project at Craven Cottage.
The deal would also see the FA offices staying on the Wembley site, which would remain the administrative headquarters of the game.
Privately, senior FA figures feel the deal is one they cannot turn down because of the positive knock-on effects to the English game as a whole.
It will also see an end to the time-consuming debates about the stadium which have caused serious issues over the past 19 years.
Today was the first time the details have been presented to the Board although Glenn and Khan have been in contact for some time to fine-tune the potential agreement.
The FA expects that concerns will be raised and the scale of the deal ensures there must be due diligence and legal issues overcome before any agreement is confirmed.
But there is expectation that the positives will be seen to outweigh the negatives to such an extent that opposition within the FA will swiftly evaporate and Khan could be the new Wembley owner before the end of the year.
SHAHID KHAN – From earning just $1.20-an-hour to buying Wembley Khan was born in Pakistan in July 1950 The billionaire’s granddad fathered over 50-plus children and was married seven times Khan left his home country for the US in 1967 and washed dishes for $1.20-an-hour while studying Industrial Engineering at the University of Illnois He started work for a car parts company in 1971 but left to start his own called Bumper Gate seven years later. He returned to buy his previous employers, Flex-N-Gate, two years later Over a 30 year period, Khan built up the company from local to worldwide supplier, cleverly cornering the lucrative Toyota market and expanding throughout the 1990s and 2000s With his new-found wealth, Khan’s first attempt at going into the NFL with a 60 per cent bid for the St Louis Rams was rejected. A year later he bought Jacksonville Jaguars for $760m In 2013 he bought Fulham from Mohamed Al Fayad for a figure between £150m-£200m Khan and his wife Ann have two children named Tony and Shanna His net worth is now $7.9billion and he is the 158th wealthiest man in the world From Twin Towers to the Arch for £757m Dec 1996 Wembley selected as preferred site by Sport England for new national stadium. Nov 1998 Project handed £120m lottery funding by Sport England. Sept 2002 Old stadium demolished as government stumps up £20m in return for more control. WSNL secures £433m in bank loans for a project with revised cost of £757m. Oct 2002 Construction finally begins on new Wembley Stadium.
March 2007 Work is finally completed at total cost around £1billion – over twice the £458m price quoted. Multiplex make £150m losses, later suing engineering consultants. May 2007 Football returns to Wembley after almost seven years. Didier Drogba's extra-time winner gives Chelsea 1-0 victory over Manchester United in FA Cup final.
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