Britain’s shrine to football desecrated

Wembley, that shining city upon a hill, will soon be Taco Bell House. For shame!


Don't flog a prized national asset to the first moustache-twirling billionaire who comes along
(Image credit: 2018 Getty Images)

As far as I am concerned, the Football Association has been getting things wrong since that day in 1863 when they, over the sensible objections of Blackheath, decided to ban "hacking", "tripping" and "running with the ball in the hands towards the opposite goal after a fair catch".

The decision to sell Wembley stadium to American businessman Shahid Khan (pictured) for an up-front payment of £600m (plus rights to the Club Wembley business worth around £300m) seems particularly inept, however. After all, "it takes some doing to sell a piece of London property for less than it cost you ten years ago", Richard Williams points out in The Guardian.

It's not just about the money. "This was to be the shining city on a hill, a football cathedral, visible from all points of the compass, a place of inspiration, aspiration and pilgrimage." An early consequence may be the lucrative sale of the naming rights, and the idea that "the national stadium, with Bobby Moore standing sentinel outside, will soon be known as Taco Bell House" will rightly cause many fans to "fret", says Matt Dickinson in The Times.

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But even if we put public sentiment to one side, "there is much more that is needed to be known about how much cash the FA will be left with". What of the public investment in the £757m rebuild, for example? We also need to know "that any gains will be invested wisely at a time when the FA has increased prize money in the FA Cup, diverting more of its funds to some of the richest clubs in the world".

A ham-fisted strategy

The FA's "ham-fisted" strategy would "make them a laughing stock in the Square Mile", says James Coney in the Daily Mail. "When you sell a big asset like Wembley you first call an investment bank" and "get a property valuation and factor that into a business plan, then put out the word to investors and see what bids come in".

What you "do not do is just say yes' when some moustache-twirling billionaire offers you £950m particularly when the sum appears to be below market value". The FA also seems to be ignoring that the surrounding area "has turned from a wasteland into a retail goldmine", which means that, "once debts are cleared in six years, the stadium will be a cash cow".

These are all good points. But perhaps the person who stands to lose most if the deal goes through is Khan himself. He may want to use Wembley to launch American football in Britain in the hope the Premier League eventually "becomes like a cheese-rolling event in the Cotswolds", says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun.

The problem is, American football is "rubbish" and "completely unfathomable". After a few years, Khan will be "forced to sell Wembley back to the Football Association for about £2.75", which would enable us to "use the profit to buy the White House and turn it into a pub".

Tabloid money a blissful release from the chore of consumer choice

Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington is determined to put his stamp on his forthcoming wedding to former co-star Rose Leslie, says Charlotte Griffiths in The Mail on Sunday. He's even stuck his face on the invitation envelopes.

The 200 invited guests were tickled to see the envelopes adorned with a stamp, released by the Royal Mail in January, featuring Harington as his character, Jon Snow, from the fantasy television series. The couple are keeping the nuptial details a secret lest hordes of fans descend on the wedding. But as one guest pointed out: "Putting Kit's face on the envelope might be a bit of a giveaway, at least for postmen across the country."

It has suddenly dawned on me why I have fallen head over heels in love with supermarket Aldi, says Camilla Tominey in the Sunday Express. It isn't the 55p baby wipes. Nor is it the lean mince beef for £3.15. It's the lack of choice. Aldi only sells the 10,000 most commonly bought items rather than offering a choice of 50,000 "suits me down to the ground". It's liberating. "I can go in there, safe in the knowledge that my trolley dash is only going to take me 20 minutes, rather than an hour being bamboozled by BOGOF (buy one, get one free) deals and trying to work out which soup I want free for the price of two."

Acting on the advice of anti-obesity campaigners, such as TV chef Jamie Oliver, the government is clamping down on what it calls "junk food", says Rod Liddle in The Sun. Another name for junk food is "stuff middle-class people don't like very much".

These nanny-state initiatives always hurt the working class, not the middle classes. When they tried to stop us getting drunk all the time, they whacked a levy on cheap cider not a bottle of Chablis. And yet alcoholism is just as bad with the better-off classes just not as heavily reported. Now they've turned their attention to "junk food". But putting up prices will only make it harder for poor people to make ends meet.