London (AFP) – British lawmakers are to quiz the Football Association over the proposed sale of Wembley after billionaire American businessman Shahid Khan made a bid to buy the national stadium.
Khan, the owner of Championship side Fulham and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL, has made an offer reportedly worth £800 million ($1 billion) to purchase the 90,000-seater venue.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has called on FA representatives and sports minister Tracey Crouch to attend the one-off session on July 18, saying in a statement issued on Friday that the proposed sale was a “move of considerable public importance”.
“Wembley is the home of English football, built in part using public money,” said chairman Damian Collins.
“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.”
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 heated debate.
A potential stumbling block concerns measures that were implemented to guarantee the FA’s commitment to the stadium for 50 years following an injection of £161 million from public bodies during the redevelopment project, which was completed in 2007.
Those stem from a National Audit Office 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 percent without approval.”
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