DCMS select committee sets up Wembley meeting for July
Shahid Khan has made the Football Association an offer of £800million to purchase the 80,000-seater stadium.
The future of Wembley will be discussed in Parliament in the summer.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has called on representatives of the Football Association and Sport England to attend a one-off meeting on July 18 to talk about the national stadium.
Sports minister Tracey Crouch will also attend.
Shahid Khan, the owner of Fulham and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL, has made the FA an offer of £800million to purchase the 90,000-seater venue.
American billionaire Khan had been hopeful of completing a deal by August but the proposed sale, and just how the FA would reinvest the windfall, has generated much debate.
A potential stumbling block, revealed by the Daily Mail, surrounds measures which were implemented to guarantee the FA’s commitment to the stadium for 50 years following an injection of £161million from public bodies during the redevelopment project, which was completed in 2007.
Those stem from the National Audit Office’s report of June 2003 into the “English national stadium project at Wembley”, which goes on to explain how “the public sector funders have secured protections to safeguard the public interest in the project”.
The NAO report said there were concerns “to safeguard the public interest by preventing the Football Association from appearing to profiteer, or destabilising the project, by taking windfall gains, including after refinancing”.
As such, protections were put in place stating the FA has to “retain a controlling interest in Wembley National Stadium Limited for 50 years from completion of the stadium and its ability to sell a minority interest is limited”.
The report adds: “The sale of any minority interest earlier than 2018 requires approval from the Secretary of State and between 2018 and 2022 the Football Association can sell only up to 15 per cent without approval.”
Following the continuing debate, the DCMS committee said in a statement issued on Friday morning that the proposed sale of the “national asset” was a “move of considerable public importance”.
The chairman of the DCMS committee, Damian Collins, said: “Wembley is the home of English football, built in part using public money.
“There should be some public scrutiny of any decision to sell the stadium and how proceeds from this could be invested to benefit the long-term future of the game.
“The committee is interested in understanding the details of the FA’s proposals and receiving evidence from people who may hold alternative views.”
Written submissions from “interested parties” have also been welcomed by the DCMS committee, which can be contributed until 5pm on June 28.
When contacted by Press Association Sport on Friday, Sport England referred to a previous statement, which read: “Sport England invested £120m of National Lottery money into the development of Wembley Stadium.
“We look forward to hearing more detail about how such a deal would work and whether it would benefit grassroots sport.”
It is understood the FA was always aware the government had a say in what was done with Wembley because of the public money invested in the redevelopment project, and nothing would be done without proper consultation to all stakeholders.
Due diligence continues on Khan’s proposed bid, although a swift outcome is not expected.
In his letter to FA Council members when news of the potential sale emerged, FA chairman Greg Clarke asked for a wide canvas of opinion and to return with “as broad a view from across the game as possible” at the next scheduled meeting on May 29.
On Friday afternoon, the FA issued a statement in response to the invitation to attend Parliament. “We welcome the offer to take part in an open discussion with the select committee for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport about Wembley Stadium,” a statement said.
“Although we have not accepted any offers, it’s an opportunity to talk about the future of the stadium, gain further input from key stakeholders and discuss our thorough review process of the offer that we have received.”