Sale of Wembley to Jags owner survives FA meeting

FA plan to sell Wembley clears big hurdle as board gives idea backing. Despite rumours that some directors did not like the idea, the £900million proposal will now seek majority support at next month’s FA Council meeting.

The FA Board has backed plans to sell Wembley Stadium (David Davies/PA)

AIWA! NO!//The plan to sell Wembley Stadium to Fulham owner Shahid Khan moved a step closer to completion after it was backed by the Football Association’s board.

The proposed deal, which is worth £600million in cash and £300m in future revenue from the stadium’s hospitality business, will now go to the FA Council for its blessing on October 11.

In a statement, an FA spokesperson said: “The sale of Wembley Stadium, the negotiated protections and an outlined plan to invest £600m into football community facilities, were presented and discussed at the FA Board meeting today.

Chelsea players celebrating
The FA Board has backed plans to sell Wembley Stadium (David Davies/PA)

“Following on from this discussion, the FA Board has agreed to take the presentation to the FA Council to get its input now that the full facts are known.”

Prior to the crunch meeting, it had been widely reported that the three board members from the National Game, or grassroots football, had strong reservations about the sale and the desired unanimity would be impossible, effectively killing the plan.

But their concerns appear to have melted away, which will greatly encourage FA chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn, who have championed this idea for over a year, that they can get this over the line.

Shahid Khan
Fulham owner Shahid Khan has said his plans to buy Wembley will not affect Craven Cottage’s future (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Khan welcomed the decision in a statement, saying: “The news from today’s FA board meeting is welcomed and encouraging. I understand the discussion was open and thorough.

“One cannot ask for more as we continue to work through the process with the FA Board, FA Council, Sport England, the Mayor of London’s office and DCMS toward reaching an agreement that will serve English football for generations to come.

“Today’s development has no effect on my plans to renovate Craven Cottage and, as such, has no impact on Craven Cottage continuing to be the permanent home of Fulham Football Club.”

The terms of the deal have already been approved with Khan, who wants to use the stadium as a base for his National Football League side the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it has been backed by the government, professional leagues and public bodies that invested in Wembley’s rebuilding.

The Catalans Dragons team
Khan’s plans will mean the Challenge Cup final, last won by Catalans Dragaons, will continue to be staged at Wembley (Adam Davy/PA)

Under Khan’s ownership, the stadium would still be used, on a rental basis, for most of England’s home matches, all of the current club finals and semi-finals it stages and rugby league’s Challenge Cup final.

The only exception to the status quo would be that England would need to play its home games in September and November on the road, as they clash with the NFL’s regular season.

The American billionaire has also committed to maintaining the stadium as a possible venue for major international games, agreed to avoid sponsorship deals with gambling firms and other controversial businesses and given the FA buy-back and and sell-on clauses, should he fail to comply with conditions or sell at a later date for a profit.

The FA has already said it wants to use the windfall to invest up to £1billion in much-needed community facilities – new changing rooms, better drainage for grass pitches and more 3G pitches – and this will be done via the Football Foundation, the charity it set up in 2000 with the Premier League and Sport England to invest in the grassroots.

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