Wembley Stadium: FA Council has 'healthy discussion' over proposed £600m sale

Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium reopened in 2007 after a rebuild costing £757m

The proposed £600m sale of Wembley Stadium was the subject of a "healthy discussion" at a meeting about the future of the home of English football.

The 127-member Football Association Council met to hear a presentation from FA executives about why they back the sale to US billionaire Shahid Khan.

Among the issues discussed was ensuring protections are in place "to ensure its status as the national stadium".

The FA Council is set to vote on the proposed sale on 24 October.

Following Thursday's meeting, the FA said a "healthy discussion" had taken police at the Council, which includes representatives of the Premier League, Football League, county FAs, supporters and other stakeholders.

The Council - often referred to as the parliament of English football - has no power to formally stop the deal.

A senior FA source had earlier told BBC Sport the board believes the odds are slightly against the purchase being sanctioned given the strong objections of some councillors.

But Howard Wilkinson - the last Englishman to win the domestic title and a key figure behind the building of the FA's centre of excellence at St George's Park - believes what Fulham owner Khan is offering is too good to turn down.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: "I made clear my view. It's a unique opportunity. The facilities at grassroots level are not adequate compared with other countries.

"This is a one-time-in-the-world opportunity that I can't see being repeated."

Councillors must now speak to their boards and members about how to vote.

Wembley will remain England's home - Khan

Prior to Thursday's meeting, Khan wrote to every FA councillor to assure them he has no intention of moving Fulham to Wembley if his proposed purchase of the stadium is approved.

Some of the opposition to the sale is based on concerns that Khan wants to base both his NFL team - the Jacksonville Jaguars - and the Premier League club there.

The 68-year-old says his plan is to renovate Fulham's Craven Cottage.

Following Thursday's meeting, Khan issued a statement in which he said "an agreement will provide exceptional opportunities to invest in the game while ensuring that Wembley Stadium will forever be the national stadium of England" and "unquestionably one of the finest venues in the world".

He added he was "committed to a partnership with the FA that will realise long-time resources for and benefits to the game".

Analysis - deal hangs in balance

Richard Conway, BBC sports news correspondent

The deal to sell Wembley is in the balance - and that potentially spells bad news for an FA board keen to complete the £600m deal.

The board wants a clear mandate from the council, which represents the broad spectrum of stakeholders within the English game. A benchmark of about 60-65% in support of selling has been suggested to me if the purchase is to proceed.

But, both privately and publicly, many within amateur football have concerns over how the money will be spent and how the windfall will be governed and regulated.

Some hold an emotional view. They passionately believe the traditional home of English football should not be sold at any price.

Others ask why a levy on agent fees or transfers can't provide the level of revenue the FA is looking for to assist in a grassroots overhaul.

Trust is another important factor - with many holding a healthy scepticism over the FA executive's ability to spend the money wisely.

The fear is that the cash will be frittered away given concerns over whether local authorities, upon whose land many of the new pitches and facilities will be built, are on board with the FA's overall grand plan.

What happens if they want to sell the land in the future after an expensive 3G pitch has been laid? What about ongoing maintenance of the new facilities? Who will pay for that? And, they ask, will my own area benefit directly? Who decides where the cash goes?

As always, the devil is in the detail and council members have many unanswered questions.

English football has come to a crossroads and, ultimately, they must be the ones to decide which way it turns.

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