Wembley sale collapse shouldn't be bad news - Ian Hart

Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium

Whether Fulham’s owner Shahid Khan withdrew his offer to buy Wembley Stadium last week or the FA changed its mind is open to debate, but immediately speculation grew to the fact that the proposed cash injection to grassroots football as a result of the potential £600million deal would now not happen.

Cue near-hysteria from numerous quarters over how this would impact on the future of the beautiful game at its lowest level in this country.

At the same time, various media outlets reported that Manchester United defender Luke Shaw had signed a contract which would see him earning in the region of between £150,000 and £190,000 a week (or £7million to £10million a year). As an aside, older readers will recall that less than 30 years ago, Michael Knighton was going buy United, lock, stock and barrel, for a reported £20million (remember the ball juggling in the centre circle at Old Trafford?) but he couldn’t raise the finance to buy Martin Edwards out.

To paraphrase a Fatboy Slim album title, we’ve come a long way, baby.

Returning to the funding of grassroots football, it’s exactly what it says on the tin. The start of the footballing journey, regardless of what country it is, every footballer that turns out in the Premier League this weekend has played at the lowest level. Seven years ago next week, a teenage Solly March caused no end of problems for Worthing under-18s while playing for Lewes. A sublime first-half performance from the then talented youngster saw the Rooks go in 5-0 up at the break before a spirited Worthing comeback saw a thrilling game end 6-4. So, in seven years, Solly went from the Dripping Pan to the Premier League.

The solution is so simple I cannot believe that it hadn’t been mooted before: just put a weekly one per cent levy on every Premier League player’s wages – which for Mr Shaw could equate to something in the region of £1,500 a week. Multiply that throughout the top-flight and then put the money directly into a grassroots fund.

In addition, the football authorities could regulate the agents and levy a five per cent commission on the agents’ commission and then put that straight into the grassroots fund. Five per cent of what the agents collectively take out through transfer deals? Think what could do for youth and adult park football in this country.

In recent years it’s become apparent the tail is wagging the dog. Well, maybe the time to redress the balance is now.

A great win on the road for Albion against hapless Newcastle United, despite losing the influential Glenn Murray very early on. It goes without saying that we all wish Muzza a speedy recovery.

Wolves arrive at the Amex this week having really impressed on their return to the top-flight before last week’s home defeat by Watford.

The Hornets themselves have put some impressive performances in this season, so the Albion can’t be too complacent.

It’s not over confidence or even arrogance but already nearly a third into the season, I think we’ve already identified that if the Albion don’t suffer through suspension or injury this squad is clearly going to finish above at least five Premier League teams; Huddersfield, Newcastle, Fulham, Cardiff and Southampton.

The Wolves game certainly won’t be a cakewalk, far from it, in fact I think it will be an exciting game, but ultimately I’ve predicting another Albion win - 2-1 - putting even more daylight between us and the bottom group.

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