The decision by Fulham FC and Jacksonville Jaguars owner, Shahid Khan, to withdraw his offer for Wembley Stadium is, in my opinion, a regrettable one. His offer was substantial and plausible, yet the FA Council members’ stance was so aggressive that Mr Khan felt he had no option than withdraw his £600m offer. I speak as a football fan and as a volunteer at a junior football club who could have directly benefitted from the sale of Wembley. I’m speaking personally and not on behalf of my club, so I won’t name them.
The time for a national stadium has been and gone. I can’t think of a single reason for the need for Wembley, even if it was relocated to Birmingham. The sheer number of super-stadiums we have – Old Trafford, The Emirates, The Etihad, St James’ Park, Anfield, White Hart Lane etc – is something we should be proud of. If you’ve ever been to Wembley for an international match, you’ll notice there is zero atmosphere - I imagine there would be more of a murmur on the Moon.
It’s embarrassing – there’s a palpable apathy towards the national side when they play at our national stadium. Why should England play at Wembley and deny the people of other areas of the country the opportunity to see their heroes play? I just don’t understand it. When England goes “on the road” you can hear the support the team receives thereby underlining my point.
“New” Wembley was a vanity project for the FA that serves no purpose other than to drain money away from boys and girls playing football on substandard pitches up and down the country. Take last January, February, and March, our junior teams had more games cancelled than they played because the weather was so inclement it trashed our grass pitches. The Beast from East certainly left its mark. Similar weather in previous and future years means deja-vu in winter months will be commonplace. It’s frustrating for players, coaches, teams, and supporters.
Of course, there’s no guarantee my teams would have benefitted financially from the sale of Wembley, but I would have welcomed sending my proposal via my regional FA for 4G pitches to be installed so there is a positive legacy to the sale of Wembley.
I caught an interview with Peter Shilton on TV this morning discussing the non-sale of Wembley. As he tripped over his words as the reasons why Wembley is good for the country, I pondered his objective. Surely, if players can’t play then the chances of unearthing the next generation of players diminishes? His main argument was “a country like England should have a national stadium”. Yet the Italian and Spanish national football team plays at different stadiums throughout their countries – they look at it sensibly. Football is a game for the people. Historic arguments have won and it has left Peter Shilton grappling for his words like he was still trying to catch the “Hand of God” as delivered by Diego Maradona in 1986.