The FA were in meltdown on Friday night, with board members facing a vote of no confidence over their plans to sell Wembley.
As MailOnline revealed on Thursday, FA powerbrokers are giving serious consideration to a deal approaching £1billion after receiving a formal offer from Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan.
But Sir Dave Richards, once the most powerful man in English football and still a member of the 127-strong FA council, has branded the plan ‘scandalous’ and warned there could be a move from the FA blazers to remove chief executive Martin Glenn, chairman Greg Clarke and the rest of the board.
FA board members are facing a vote of no confidence over their plans to sell Wembley
Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan made a near £1bn offer for the stadium
Sir Dave Richards, a member of the FA council, called the proposed sale ‘scandalous’. Richards spent 14 years as Premier League chairman from 1999 to 2013, during which time the league grew into the richest in the world. The former Sheffield Wednesday chairman was also an FA board member and chair of the governing body’s international committee. Now 74, Richards is a member of the 127-strong FA council.
Richards, the former Premier League chairman, accused Glenn and Clarke of being ‘two people who don’t know the game’ and predicted fireworks when the FA council next meets on May 29.
‘It’s scandalous,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘It took 10 years of massive hard work to build that stadium and now two people who don’t know the game are trying to sell it.
‘People (on the council) are that fed up I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if there is a motion for a vote of no confidence in the board. I’m certainly going to speak out at the next council meeting and voice my opposition and I hope other people have the courage to do likewise.’
Richards’ view was echoed by Ken Bates, the former Chelsea chairman and FA board member who was central to the initiative to buy Wembley for the FA in 1999 and build the new stadium.
Richards warned there could be a move to remove FA chief executive Martin Glenn from his job. Former Walkers Crisps CEO Glenn’s three years at the helm have not been without controversy. He failed to read the full safeguarding report about former England women’s coach Mark Sampson when first shown it and referenced the Star of David in the same breath as the Nazi swastika.
Greg Clarke, chairman of the FA, was accused of lacking knowledge of football by Richards. Appointed in August 2016 after six years as chairman of the Football League, the former Leicester City chairman also had a spell as non-executive director at BUPA. He was criticised last year for his handling of discrimination claims against Mark Sampson, admitting the FA had ‘lost the trust of the public’.
‘People are so fed up, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a vote of no confidence in the board’
‘This deal should not be contemplated,’ said Bates, who safeguarded Stamford Bridge by creating the Chelsea Pitch Owners organisation. ‘Wembley belongs to the people. The FA are just the trustees and the custodians.’
In an interview with talkSPORT he added: ‘First of all, I’m not sure who the current board of the FA are, but have they got the ability to invest £500million? I doubt it. Who’s going to administer it? Who’s going to supervise it? Who’s going to maintain the running costs? If they really want money to invest in grassroots football to that extent, they should ask the Premier League to do it, because they’ve got billions.’
Writing exclusively for Sportsmail, record-breaking former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton accused the FA of selling their soul.
He said: ‘It might feel like a lot of money but we’ll be selling the heritage of our game. Where do you draw the line? Are we going to sell the soul of our game? You can never get that back. We cannot sell Wembley.’
Richards’ view was echoed by former Chelsea owner Ken Bates, who condemned the FA
The decision to sell ultimately rests with the FA board but the situation would certainly become difficult if there is widespread opposition to the sale among council members.
Clearly sensing unease among those members, Clarke wrote to them for the second time in two days on Friday after conceding 24 hours earlier that selling the national stadium to an American billionaire was something that would divide opinion, not least when it means NFL games could take precedence over England matches every autumn.
Glenn believes it is a good move for the FA as it would enable them to pump £500m into grassroots football and solve the dire shortage of decent football pitches across the country. Initial data suggest the terrible winter caused as many as 50,000 matches to be postponed this season.
In his letter to the FA council, Clarke wrote: ‘The process to evaluate the feasibility of selling Wembley has been developed thoroughly over several months with the help of a major City adviser.
Former England keeper and record cap holder Peter Shilton accused the FA of selling their soul
‘I have reviewed progress throughout and it only came to the board yesterday when all sides felt it was in the appropriate position to be formally reviewed. At yesterday’s meeting the board agreed unanimously to explore the sale but has not committed yet to any course of action. As you would expect there was a debate around the challenges a sale may bring and the opportunities it creates.
‘I can also confirm that the concept has been discussed with senior Government, sport and football stakeholders and we have received a positive response but at this stage no formal approval. It is fair to say all parties can see the need to proceed with caution and with an eye to the risks involved.
‘Those risks and challenges will be explored in the days ahead but one thing I would like to make clear is that should the board agree to proceed with a sale of Wembley it is our intention that all proceeds would be placed in trust by the FA with governance approved by football stakeholders, Government and Sport England to ensure they are allocated to closing the facilities gap and building community assets up and down England.’
The FA insist profits from the sale of Wembley would be used to fund grassroots football
Sportsmail broke the story of the possible sale of Wembley on Thursday afternoon
Clarke stressed that the FA council would have an important voice in the process, adding that the evaluation of ‘any final offer’ will ‘not happen before we as a council have had chance to discuss the issue in full’ and urged members to canvass opinion ahead of the May 29 meeting.
Khan, meanwhile, continues to think big after declaring on Thursday that he could be the new owner of Wembley within the next two to three months.
The 67-year-old said he would support the FA in bidding to host the 2030 World Cup. He told The Associated Press that ‘very preliminary talks’ have already been held with the FA about bidding for the tournament. ‘We would want it to host the World Cup and anything else that is available,’ said Khan.
‘The FA still has key assets there they will be getting revenue off. All of us will be aligned to use it and build on the heritage of the place.’