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Wembley sale a “short-term play” says Neville

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

The sale of Wembley to fund grassroots football would be a “short term play” and not improve community access to football in the long run, according to former-England defender Gary Neville.

Speaking to MPs on the Media and Sport Select Committee, Neville argued that the sale of Wembley was unlikely to solve the problems facing grassroots football in England and Wales.

“The FA feels to fund the grassroots programme they have to sell a national asset ,” Neville told MPs. “It’s quite simply ridiculous.

“It’s a short-term play, that money’s going to dissipate over the next 15 to 20 years – then what?”

The FA is considering plans to sell Wembley Stadium for £600m to Sahid Khan, the billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team. The FA says the sale could transform community facilities.

Neville told MPs the FA should be exploring alternatives to selling Wembley, and argued for a fairer distribution of football’s vast TV revenues throughout the pyramid.

“£500m is a pittance in the game of football,” Neville said. “It’s incredible that we have to sell Wembley to fund grass roots.

“Don’t sell Wembley, whatever you do, don’t sell Wembley when you can place a levy on agents’ fees.”

Neville called on the Government to intervene to help create a singular football authority that could create a “long term strategy for football in this country.”

FSF representative Katrina Law also gave evidence to MPs – she said supporter opinion on the Wembley sale remained split, with a third being against, a third in favour and another third undecided.

“Supporters want to know more about what protections are in place and assurances about how the money would be deployed afterwards,” Kat, who is also co-chair of Tottenham Hotspur Supporers’ Turst, told MPs. “What about the major fixtures taking place at Wembley – the FA Cup final, the play-off finals to name a couple?

“We also want assurances about the naming rights for Wembley and will a change of ownership prevent the FA bidding from bidding for major tournaments?”

Kat also said fans wanted protections around ticket pricing for football matches taking place at Wembley to ensure fixtures such as the FA Cup became more affordable. Competition organisers must be able to set their own ticket prices as part of the deal, she told MPs.

She also commended the FA for consulting supporter representatives on the sale and said the FSF and FA would be conducting a joint survey to canvass opinion in the near future.

  • Watch below – the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee session in full.. 

Thanks to Chelsea Debs for the image used in this article. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.

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