'English football wouldn't lose soul over Wembley sale' - FA chairman Greg Clarke

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Shahid Khan - If you love English football, Wembley deal must go ahead

English football would not lose its "soul" if Wembley Stadium is sold, according to Football Association chairman Greg Clarke.

American billionaire Shahid Khan wants to buy the stadium in a deal that could be worth £900m.

In a letter answering questions from FA council members, Clarke discusses the bid and ownership of the old Wembley.

"Very few national governing bodies own and operate their own stadiums," he said.

"We did not own it in 1966 or 1996. The emotional reactions and arguments are entirely understandable and that is why it is important that any owner of Wembley Stadium respects its role as the home of English football.

"However, many also argue that the real 'soul' of English football is in clubs, leagues and volunteers."

The 61-year-old says the FA has funds in place to repay the remaining debt on Wembley by 2024, after which the organisation would be £3m a year better off. However, Clarke says that figure represented a "positive outcome but not a transformational one".

"Even debt free, there is a limit to what additional profit can be generated from owning the stadium when capital and operational costs are considered," he added.

It is understood Khan - who also owns Championship team Fulham and NFL side Jacksonville Jaguars - would pay £600m for the stadium and the FA will continue to run the Club Wembley hospitality business, valued at £300m.

Clarke says the bid has arisen from the Jaguars' annual use of the stadium since 2013 and their "positive experiences of playing at Wembley."

Wembley Stadium cost £757m and opened in 2007
Wembley Stadium cost £757m and opened in 2007

"The conversation about what long-term options were available has evolved," Clarke added.

"Over the last year this conversation has become more serious to the point when a formal and very credible offer was made.

"If accepted, the FA would no longer be responsible for the significant operational and capital expenditure costs of the stadium."

The money from the sale of Wembley would allow the governing body to reinvest in the English game's "number one challenge" at grassroots level.

Clarke says the finance would help improve pitches and stage more England games away from the capital, a plan which it is already committed to.

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