Tottenham and Watford supporters on Wembley Way on Monday night insisted that the FA must provide transparent reassurances that the footballing traditions of the national stadium are protected if Wembley is sold to the Pakistani-American entrepreneur Shahid Khan.
In the first football match at Wembley since the details of a possible sale were revealed, Sportsmail canvassed the opinions of supporters as they made their way into the stadium.
England have played at Wembley since the 1920s but the stadium may now be sold to Khan – the Fulham owner and billionaire proprietor of American football franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fans at the Tottenham v Watford match revealed concerns about the selling of Wembley
Khan has revealed that should the deal go through he intends to make adjustments to the stadium, including finding a way to add a roof.
‘I’m assuming we will now be at least going to the stage of doing some due diligence,’ Khan said in an interview with the Telegraph.
‘Some of the drama with the roof, for example, and all I know is what I have read, public documents, but I’d like to really understand the angle (of the roof) and how it doesn’t quite work.
‘There are now all kinds of plastic roofs (you can install) so if you could do that you could control the climate. With the roof there are two sliding parts that move but the rain can still come in and if you are looking at a winter concert, for example, would it be comfortable for people?’
Shahid Khan had made a big offer to buy the stadium that could help to fund grassroots game
The Fulham owner also admitted that he wants England to continue to play at Wembley, claiming that’s part of the reason the stadium is worth so much.
‘England must play there. Otherwise it will be a shell. It would be like an empty suit that doesn’t have soul.’
‘We want the FA to be there, we want the England football games,’ he insisted.
‘Other than that the steel and the concrete is not worth £600million plus. They have to be part-and-parcel so we can build from that. For them to be part of it, if they need assurances from us then I would have no issue with those.’
The Football Association have argued a potential £950m windfall could address shortages at grassroots level but former England captain Gary Neville has described it as ‘absurd’ while Peter Shilton questioned whether the FA would be ‘selling the soul of our game.’
But he has revealed he wants to add a roof to the stadium as talks take the next step
The discussions revealed a generational divide, with some elder supporters passionately opposed to the sale amid fears the stadium could be renamed while Millennials admitted they were either unaware or did not care for the sale.
Raymond Fuller, a 77-year-old Tottenham fan, also highlighted that £40m of taxpayers money and £120m in National Lottery funding to build the stadium: ‘What happens to that public money?’
Fuller asked. ‘Wembley belongs to the England fans. It’s English. It has got to stay English. We can’t have an American owner, oh no no. Mark my words, he will be changing the name of the stadium within two years.
‘I first came here to see Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham lift the FA Cup in 1961, it is a special place. If they do wrongly sell it, we need clear guarantees it remains the national home of football for England and the Cup finals.’
Watford supporter Andy Cook, 51, countered that the stadium is so new that most supporters feel little affinity but he also insisted there must be protection for the showpiece events of English football.
Fans are worried Khan, owner of Jacksonville Jaguars, will take the soul out of the place
Cook said: ‘The biggest problem for football is the lack of funding for grassroots facilities. It holds us back, so if this move unlocks cash for that, then I’m in support.
‘And let’s be honest, there’s nothing special about the new Wembley. The old one with the Twin Towers and that walk down Wembley way was spine-tingling and iconic. But this one is soulless.
‘However, there must be a transparent contract – at least 100 years long – that guarantees Cup finals are played here. Don’t forget play-off finals too – those days out for lower league clubs are rare and have a special place in our hearts.’
Another Tottenham fan, who asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘The good thing is it means the England team will go on tour away from Wembley. Fans in the north-east and north-west and the Midlands should be able to watch England without trekking down to London.’
Responding to concerns from Neville and FA councillors, Khan told BBC Sport last night: ‘My message is that if you love English football, you want this to go ahead. It provides the money and revenue for grassroots football.
‘Otherwise, how will the FA be able to do their mission? Wembley is not a money maker for the FA. Their core mission is football and if you like English football, this is the money needed to make it happen.’