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FA points to ‘healthy discussion’ over Wembley deal ahead of key vote

The English Football Association (FA) has said a “healthy discussion” was staged over Shahid Khan’s takeover offer for Wembley Stadium ahead of a special meeting scheduled for later this month that will vote on the proposal.

The 127-member FA Council met yesterday (Thursday) to hear from senior FA executives as to why they are backing the proposal from US businessman Khan, owner of Premier League club Fulham and NFL American football franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Khan’s offer is worth £600m (€673.6m/$786.2m) in cash and £300m in future revenue from Wembley’s hospitality business. He submitted an offer for Wembley back in April, and negotiations have since been held over the terms of the deal.

Under the terms of any agreed deal, Wembley Stadium would have to retain its original moniker, while the FA would have final sign off on any potential London-based NFL franchise being based at the stadium. The Jaguars play their latest annual Wembley game against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 28 and have long been linked to a permanent move to the English capital.

The FA Council is now scheduled to vote on the potential sale at a meeting on October 24. While it has no formal powers to stop the sale, the FA said it will take these views “into consideration” when it makes a final decision.

The BBC said that among the issues discussed at yesterday’s meeting was ensuring protections are in place “to ensure its (Wembley’s) status as the national stadium”. The FA board is said to be keen to secure a clear mandate for the takeover to go ahead, with the BBC stating this benchmark has been set at a level of 60-65% support.

A senior FA source had earlier told BBC Sport the board believes the odds are slightly against the deal being given the green light owing to the strong objections of some councillors. Key to the FA’s strategy in supporting Khan’s offer is its pledge to reinvest the funds into grassroots facilities.

Howard Wilkinson, a former England manager and key figure behind the development of the FA’s St George’s Park training campus in Burton upon Trent, has given his backing to Khan’s offer. Speaking after the meeting, Wilkinson 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.”

In a statement concerning Thursday’s meeting, the FA said: “Today’s FA Council meeting included a presentation and healthy discussion on the potential sale of Wembley Stadium. The full facts and figures of a £600m investment to improve community football facilities in England were outlined.

“The presentation also included detailed information on the commercial deal that has been discussed, including the protections that will be in place to ensure its status as the national stadium and the home of English football.”

Earlier this week, Khan maintained that Fulham remains fully committed to its Craven Cottage home with redevelopment work scheduled to commence in May, amid further reports linking the club to a move to Wembley.

Khan also released a fresh statement following yesterday’s meeting, which read: “As I’ve expressed in writing to the FA Board and members of the FA Council, an agreement will provide exceptional opportunities to invest in the game while ensuring that Wembley Stadium will forever be the national stadium of England, the undisputed home of English football and unquestionably one of the finest venues in the world.

“I am committed to a partnership with the FA that will realise longtime resources for and benefits to the game and an extraordinary experience for all who will play in or visit Wembley Stadium for many years to come.”

Image: Visited Wembley