KEN BATES, once the driving force behind the construction of Wembley, last night called on the Football Association to abandon their plans to sell the national stadium.
US billionaire Shahid Khan, owner of Fulham and American Football side Jacksonville Jaguars, is understood to have tabled a £500m offer to the governing body.
Under the proposal the FA will retain the rights to Club Wembley, its hospitality and debenture business that is understood to be worth around £300m, and then plough any surplus from the sale into grass-roots football. Bates, however, is adamant any deal would be a mistake.
“This sale has to be stopped,” the former chairman of the Wembley project said when talking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post. “Wembley belongs to the people and to the fans.
“A lot of people, including myself, worked our b******* off to get that stadium built. The current management at the FA are merely the trustees of Wembley. They should not be selling the home of English football.
“It is nothing to do with the money, either. The price could be £500m, £600m, whatever. Wembley should not be sold. By all means let Jacksonville Jaguars play at Wembley. They can pay rent like everyone else.”
Bates, brought on to the Wembley redevelopment project by then FA chief executive Graham Kelly, was heavily involved in the design and planning of the 90,000 capacity stadium.
He fought a successful battle to ensure a running track, something the Government had wanted as part of a bid to stage the 2012 Olympics, was not included, but resigned from the project in 2001, a couple of months after stepping down as chairman.
Nevertheless, Bates was publicly thanked by Geoff Thompson, then the FA chairman, in his speech to guests at the 2007 FA Cup final.
Former Leeds United chairman Bates added: “The FA say they will spend the money from the sale on grass-roots football. Really? It is fine building all weather pitches, but who is going to run them? Who is going to maintain them?
“That costs money and will do for a lot of years. I just don’t understand the FA’s thinking on this and nor do a lot of others. Wembley should belong to the nation.”