Wembley sale can reverse FA’s reputational decline, says CEO Clarke

LONDON (Reuters) – Proposals to sell Wembley Stadium to U.S. billionaire Shahid Khan are “an opportunity to reverse the FA’s reputational decline”, the governing body’s chief executive Martin Glenn told a meeting of the organisation’s council members on Tuesday.

Glenn also moved to reassure members that selling the national soccer stadium would not represent a “betrayal” and would not be selling the “soul of the game”, echoing comments from FA chairman Greg Clarke on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the FA confirmed last month that English soccer’s governing body had received an offer to buy the stadium from Jacksonville Jaguars owner Kahn in a deal that could be worth up to 1 billion pounds.

Under the plan, the FA would keep Wembley as the main venue for major matches, including England games and the FA Cup Final, but the national team could play elsewhere in October and November due to clashes with the U.S. NFL season.

The 127-member FA Council — consisting of representatives in footballing bodies from English counties to the Premier League — met to discuss the proposals on Thursday, with several more traditionalist members having reservations over the deal.

Glenn, when addressing the Council, insisted that any sale could benefit the English game in many ways, while helping to change the way the soccer authorities are viewed.

“This is an opportunity to unleash an unprecedented amount of investment into community football,” Glenn said.

“We do not need to sell, and we can and will do the things we have planned to do no matter what.

“There is no need for drama, emotive language, or any ‘meltdowns’. What we have in front of us is simply an opportunity.

“(It is an) opportunity to really reverse The FA’s reputational decline.”

Glenn also said there was no guarantee that Khan would be the buyer, leaving the door open to other bidders.

“The reason we went public with the offer is that we want this to be transparent. Wembley Stadium has public money tied into it, and any potential sale needs to be open and competitive,” Glenn added.

“We have had no other offers to date, but are ready to work with other buyers.”

Due to the structure of the FA, a final decision on a sale can only be made by its 10-member executive board, but Chairman Clarke said on Tuesday that the governing body was a “long way” from any decision on a potential sale.

Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris

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