Sports

The collapse of the Wembley deal

There goes the deal. Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/The FA via Getty Images

GROUNDS FOR CONCERN

Huzzah, another victory for this proud land! How many times do we have to tell the world to take their investments and their jobs elsewhere? HAVE YOU GOT THE MESSAGE YET? Well, Shahid Khan has, “respectfully withdrawing” (for now) his offer to buy Wembley Stadium after the weight of popular opposition to the deal finally became clear, leaving the nation to rejoice in the continued ownership of a building nobody really needs and the exhilarating absence of funding for grassroots sport.

Among the people mourning the deal’s death was the government’s sports minister, Tracey Crouch, who had declared it “a huge opportunity to cover up 40 years of Conservative underinvestment in what community facilities they somehow haven’t yet forced anyone to sell, and particularly attractive because it wouldn’t require them to actually spend anything or tax anyoneboost funding into the development of and maintenance of grassroots pitches”. What, though, to make of it all? The papers painted a foggy picture. The Mail declared it “a great victory for English football”; “Football’s staying home!” trilled the Express; “A shameful betrayal of the nation’s children”, screamed the Times, who declared: “There are no winners in this, beyond the pumped up vanity of certain FA council members.” Why, it was almost as if this was a complex issue about which no single, simple conclusion can be drawn – or at least about which a variety of single, simple conclusions can simultaneously be drawn, each with absolute certainty and conviction.

The Football Foundation, which would have helped to spend the Khan windfall, was also unhappy the deal fell through. “This would have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make inroads into the most pressing issue facing football,” it said. The Fiver has checked this, and we think he means José Mourinho’s relationship with Paul Pogba. It also said the collapse of the Wembley deal will force millions of amateur players “to put up with a stock of community football facilities that is in a shameful state”.

Where could the game possibly find the money it needs to make these facilities vaguely adequate? Gary Neville and the Football Supporters’ Federation are behind a levy on fees for those of a 15% nature. The former FA chairman, David Bernstein, says the cash-rich English top flight should foot the bill – “a Premier League tax, if you like”. Shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan called on the government to “show they take this matter seriously as the long-term effects will be felt for decades to come”. As, indeed, long-term effects often are. Martin Glenn, current chief suit of the FA, was asked about all these suggestions. “Good luck,” he said, “with that.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Because I’m good” – amid growing calls for his reign as Republic O’Ireland manager to be terminated and dwindling numbers of fans paying to attend home matches, Martin O’Neill explains why he’s the right man to lead the team to Euro 2020. “It’s a challenge I’m up for,” he tooted. “I’ll be ready and we’ll go through. Simple as that.”

Oh O’Ireland. Photograph: Paul Currie/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

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