Backlash against Wembley stadium sale grows
‘Wembley belongs to the fans not the blazers’ and the FA has no right to sell it to NFL tycoon says Ken Bates amid growing backlash and calls for mass protests against the sale
- English football fans are shocked at plans to sell the stadium to a US tycoon
- Former Chelsea owner Ken Bates today slammed the FA over the sale
- He called for a petition against the sale and said fans should protest to stop it
One of the men behind the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium has called for mass protests by fans to stop it being sold to an American Football tycoon.
There was shock in the world of football yesterday as it emerged the FA were preparing to sell the iconic national stadium to Shahid Khan ahead of possible plans to bring the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team to the UK.
Ken Bates, the former Chelsea chairman who was on the FA Board member and a key figure in the redevelopment of the site, slammed the plans today.
Fans have reacted with anger to plans for the FA to sell Wembley Stadium to an NFL tycoon
Ken Bates, the former Chelsea owner who worked on the plans to redevelop Wembley, today blasted plans to sell it to NFL tycoon Shahid Khan
He launched a blistering attack on the FA board for considering the sale, insisting the stadium does not belong to the ‘suits and the blazers’ who have no right to sell it.
Mr Bates told talkSPORT radio: ‘Wembley is the home of football. It’s the Mecca for English football, where every fan wants to go once in their lifetime.
‘It is owned by the English fans, not the suits and blazers… it’s imporant to fans, to their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.
‘It’s seen as one of the best stadiums in the world and it should belong to the people who, at least in part, paid for it.’
Bates is pictured with a piece of the old Wembley turf in 2000 after he helped with plans to redevelop the site
He called for action by fans, adding: ‘They need to start by getting a petition to parliament, get 100,000 signatures for it go before parliament. Then there had to be mass demonstrations by the fans.’
He called for pressure to brought on FA board members by local organisations, and said the wealthy Premier League should pay for investment in grass roots football.
Khan is said to be offering up to £1billion to buy the stadium from the Football Association, which last night appeared poised to accept.
Mr Khan, 67, who owns American football team the Jacksonville Jaguars, could turn Wembley into a US-style sports venue. He could then try to make it the ‘home’ of the Jaguars which would stop England playing there for three months a year while the American National Football League (NFL) season plays in the autumn.
The ground was rebuilt over five years, costing £757million, including £160million of public money, and reopened in 2007. The car parts magnate could potentially charge England to play at Wembley, while critics feared it could be re-named after US firms such as Budweiser or Taco Bell.
The site has hosted many memorable moments, including England’s World Cup win in 1966
Last night it emerged Mr Khan could be the new owner within eight weeks. He told the Daily Mail: ‘I want it to become the greatest stadium on the planet. I want it to be a must on any bucket list.
‘I want it to be open to different sports and I want fans to go there to enjoy the sport but also to enjoy the venue. I have been to Wembley many times and it is an iconic and special place.’
Downing Street issued a thinly veiled warning to England football chiefs to think again if fans were against the sale. Theresa May’s official spokesman said: ‘This process is at an early stage and it is ultimately a decision for the FA.
‘But Wembley is the historic home of English football and holds a very special place in the hearts of fans up and down the country.’
The FA say selling the ground for £600million will allow them to put money into youth football
When Wembley Stadium was rebuilt the British public gave millions of pounds to create the national showpiece.
The project received £120million of National Lottery funding, its largest ever sporting award, along with £20million from the Government and £21million from the London Development Agency.
Last night fans accused the FA of a sell-out after it confirmed it had received an offer. The FA said the huge windfall could be pumped into grassroots football. But the Football Supporters Federation, which represents fans, said: ‘We are shocked. For many, Wembley Stadium is the home of English football and has huge significance beyond just bricks and mortar.
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