As if the well of English football were not already poisoned enough by foreign money. The news that Wembley Stadium will likely be sold off to American businessman Shahid Khan, a man who seemingly cares more about American Football than our beautiful game, is a sickening blow both to London and to England.
Market liberals will tell you this is purely a commercial matter. Indeed, there may be little that ordinary people – let alone politicians – can do to prevent this travesty occurring. English football is no longer the working class’s game. It is a plaything for the oil-rich and the kleptocrats. And we, the fans, are collateral.
But while the odds are stacked against the forces of good, this need not stop both the community and the politicians in Brent, the borough that is home to Wembley, taking a stand and pushing back. Indeed, were I still a Wembley councillor after 3 May, that is exactly what I would be doing. Now, of course, it falls to others.
Brent will once again be a Labour-run authority after next Thursday. Labour may well end up more predominant that it already is. Having 56 out of 63 councillors is a considerable number already and a local Labour Party on the side of working people would be failing in its duty to represent Wembley, London and England if it did not at least speak out against the looming sale of this national monument to hope and overpriced pies.
I am not sure whether the mishmash of multi-coloured towers being thrown up around the stadium at present augers well. From a number of angles, the stadium is now pretty hard to even see. Should Mr Khan succeed in his cynical purchase, he will certainly not be buying the view of the Wembley Arch that was sold to the nation when the rebuild was announced.
I have spoken out in the past against the treatment of Wembley and the land around it as a giant cash cow. Whether the decision on Wembley Stadium is primarily a commercial consideration or not, the people who should be consulted about the decision first are, in order of priority: 1. The people of Wembley 2. The people of London. 3. The people of England.
I don’t much care for Gary Lineker’s confidence that the money from the sale of the national stadium might trickle down to grassroots football. I know that there are some very clever people who think Gary should lead a new centrist party called Centre Forward, but neither he nor they seem clever enough to understand that trickle-down economics is a con.
What this comes down to ultimately is who you you think the stadium belongs to. Is the iconic home of English football a mere commercial asset, or does it represent something far more meaningful? Does Wembley Stadium in fact represent things about England that Mr Khan has not perhaps considered? Does it represent the very essence of hope, the football community and the national – though possibly misguided dream – of football success?
In my final speech as a Brent councillor, I said the following: “Know that every night in this country, every single night, little boys and little girls go to bed dreaming of playing football on that hallowed turf over there. That arch stands for something. It stands for hope. Don’t let it become obscured forever by looming towers. Don’t be afraid to do something political. And know that when you govern in the shadow of Wembley, England, as always expects.”
We will see now whether anyone was listening.