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Wembley sale could be an inspired move by Football Association

Bobby Moore's statue stands outside Wembley. Credit: PA

On the face of it selling off the home of English football to an American businessman doesn’t read well as a headline.

How on earth could the Football Association even consider handing over the shrine where Geoff Hurst scored the most iconic ever hat-trick and where Bobby Moore’s smile entered footballing folklore? Not only that, but into foreign ownership.

If your instinct is to be appalled – a careful consideration of the facts might just change your mind.

It is true the redeveloped stadium is no longer a tombstone around the FA’s neck but it still has a £150 million pounds debt which has to be serviced. As yet there are no firm details about what this potential deal involves except that the offer has come from Fulham FC’s billionaire owner Shahid Khan.

The tycoon also owns the Jackonsville Jaguars NFL franchise who for some years now have played one game at Wembley every season.

So why should we take a step back and be receptive to Wembley being sold off?

In a statement on Thursday, Khan said that the Wembley brand would be “protected and enhanced” under his stewardship. He went on to guarantee that important England internationals and even major football championships will still be played there.

With that protection it seems this project becomes a win/win for the FA. If, as suggested receipts from its more prestigious seats and corporate hospitality (Club Wembley) are also protected, the FA would still get a sizeable income from the stadium.

But free from the debt, the FA would not be financially obliged to hold all internationals there. Games could be staged around the country; something many fans have been crying out for, for years.

The sale would also give the FA a windfall to invest in its core responsibilities which are grassroots football and nurturing the next generation of superstars. Just think of the many hundreds of 3 and 4G pitches they could build, in places where English winters deprive so many youngsters of a game every weekend.

And given that St George’s Park is very much the FA’s home these days and given the success its facilities and set-up seems to have brought England’s age group and women’s teams recently, when you take nostalgia out of it, this may just end up being an inspired move by those running the beleaguered governing body.