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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Football world reacts to Wembley Stadium bid from US tycoon

Shahid Khan is believed to have offered £600m for the English national team's ground

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, left, fields questions from the media on his interest in buying Wembley Stadium in London. Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, left, fields questions from the media on his interest in buying Wembley Stadium in London. Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP

Managers, pundits and legends from the footballing world have been reacting to the news that Wembley Stadium, which is currently owned by the English Football Association, could be sold to US billionaire Shahid Khan.

A spokesman for the Football Association confirmed on Thursday that an offer had been received- reported to be worth at least £600 million (Dh3.03bn).

Mr Khan, who owns English football club Fulham and NFL team the Jacksonville Jaguars, confirmed his intention to buy the stadium, which hosts the home matches of the England national team.

Former England manager Roy Hodgson said he would support the sale of the stadium, which opened in 2007, if it remained the national team’s main ground.

"I think that, if the FA have made a deal, it would be for the right reasons," Mr Hodgson, who now manages Premier League side Crystal Palace, said.

"They see that the amount of money they get from the deal would be advantageous and would be spent in a wise way to help our football... I would hope that games would still be played there by the England national team.

"All I can say is that I am a massive supporter of Wembley as the national stadium, but I have great faith in the FA that they won't be making decisions lightly. If they think this is a good deal, then I will be behind it."

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Read more: NFL team owner in talks to buy home of English football

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While former England player Gary Lineker said the money from the sale should be put towards grassroots football organisations.

“I don’t really see much of a downside to @FA selling Wembley,” he wrote on Twitter. “The old Wembley was never owned by the FA and we won the World Cup there. Bags of money going into grassroots is way more important than owning a load of concrete. 2 steps back, 39 steps forward.”

Stoke City manager Paul Lambert said the sale would give the English national team the opportunity to play home games around the country rather than just at Wembley.

However, the news has not been welcomed across the board. Carlos Carvalhal, Swansea’s manager, opposed the deal, comparing Wembley to some of Britain’s most famous lanmarks.

He said: "If you sell Wembley, do you say you'll sell Big Ben after this? And Buckingham Palace? Wembley is a monument in my opinion and we can't sell the monuments.

Former owner of Chelsea FC, Ken Bates, who also served as chairman of the old Wembley stadium between 1997-2001, said the FA had did not have the “moral authority” to sell the ground.

“Wembley is the home of football. It's the Mecca for English football, where every fan wants to go once in their lifetime,” Mr Bates told talkSPORT radio.

“It is owned by the English fans, not the suits and blazers... it's important to fans, to their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.

“It's seen as one of the best stadiums in the world and it should belong to the people who, at least in part, paid for it.'

Meanwhile Mr Khan, who made his fortune in the automobile manufacturing industry, has said he would be happy for Chelsea to use Wembley as their temporary home while Stamford Bridge undergoes expansion works, which are expected to start in 2019.

“Chelsea would be welcome to use it” Mr Khan told the Evening Standard. “Obviously, they would be paying for it, just like Spurs did, but I think it is really important because our goal is to get the usage up and that would be part of it.”

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