Gary Neville blasts plans to sell Wembley Stadium to fund grassroots football

Football legend Gary Neville blasted “ridiculous” plans to sell Wembley to fund grassroots football.

The ex-Manchester United star hit out at moves to flog the national stadium, which is the target of a bid by Fulham owner Shahid Khan.

Pointing to the huge money swirling round the sport, Neville said the estimated £600million price tag was “a pittance in the game of football”.

Sport chiefs claim the cash is needed to boost the standard of community pitches.

Giving evidence to MPs, he believed the money for the grassroots game should come from elsewhere in English football.

“The FA feels to fund the grassroots programme they have to sell a national asset – it’s quite simply ridiculous,” he told the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating the proposed sale.

Branding it a “short-term plan we’ll regret forever”, he added: “I despair at the thought that the FA board and executive management are having to sit there, to scramble to raise this money to fund the grassroots programme.”

He suggested giving community teams a bigger slice of clubs’ TV jackpot or hammering agents with 25% levies on their whopping fees as ways of generating the extra funds.

“Don’t sell Wembley – whatever you do, don’t sell Wembley,” he insisted.

“The Government has to intervene in football to ensure the revenues that are created within the game are not only used to support the Premier League and elite football, but that grassroots football accessibility for fans are protected more.”

Neville also criticised decades of selling football pitches for jeopardising the grassroots game.

“The biggest problem for grassroots football is government selling off playing fields and school playing fields over the last 20, 30 years,” he said.

“This idea that pitches are unplayable – they were always unplayable, they were always muddy.

“I remember playing in mud baths all the way through the winter.”

Critics fear selling Wembley could see some showpiece matches and England internationals played elsewhere – or the FA having to fork out sky-high rents to use the ground.

But any attempt to change the stadium’s name was likely to flop, he warned.

Neville said: “You don’t change the name, trust me – that’s the star here.

“Wembley is a special ground all around the world – no-one’s changing that name.”

Katrina Law, of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said: “There is certainly a significant body of the fan community who do have an emotional investment in Wembley Stadium.

“Fans have bought into the whole ‘home of football’ rhetoric.”

She feared football could “play second fiddle” to American football at the ground if the sale goes ahead.

But she told MPs the potential deal offered a “transformational amount of money” for the grassroots game.

Meanwhile, Neville demanded an equal number of British players and foreign stars in league teams in a bid to produce more homegrown talent.

Current figures suggest just 30% of Premiership players are from the UK.

“My view is almost like a 50:50 model – so 50% of your team should be British and 50% should be the best international players,” he told MPs.

“It can only happen through quotas.”

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