Wembley Stadium sale: Why Wembley Park neighbours fear ground’s £800m sale could be bad news
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Hours of traffic jams, parking problems and anti-social behaviour around Wembley Park are just a few of the local concerns around the proposed £800million sale of Wembley Stadium.
The Football Association (FA) announced on Thursday talks to sell the iconic football ground to billionaire Fulham FC and American NFL Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan.
One chief player in discussions, which wields tremendous power on how these decisions could play out for neighbours, is Brent Council – which last year gave the green light for Tottenham Hotspur to make the stadium its temporary home.
Former Liberal Democrat council leader and election candidate for Sudbury, Paul Lorber, said of the proposed sale: “Understandably the debate is still about the number of events that can be held at the stadium.
“With the old stadium there weren’t restrictions on the number of events but this created problems. Roads were congested for up to three hours after an event with cars trying to leave.
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“When the new stadium was built there were proposals for a new road infrastructure to get cars moving out of the area, but it’s never been built – it was deemed too expensive.
“Instead planning conditions were put on to limit the large scale events – those with more than 50,000 people – to 30 a year. This was relaxed by the Labour group for Tottenham Hotspurs. If the other teams come they will want to relax the rules.
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“Will Brent Council bend over backwards again or will it insist on a new junction to be built behind the stadium?”
Dan Russell, a Tory candidate for Tokyngton ward, which is currently served by Labour council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt, raised further concerns.
He said: “While we are pleased that Wembley Stadium continues to be the venue of choice for major sporting events, we have heard too frequently during the local election campaign how event days are negatively impacting local residents.
“That is why we will oppose any attempts to install an NFL Franchise, or Premier League team, at Wembley until residents’ concerns about parking, littering and anti-social behaviour have been properly addressed.
“Moreover, it is clear to us that the number of police patrols, both before and after matches, needs to be increased for all events - and we will be pushing for that outcome if elected.”
A spokesman for Brent Council said: “Brent Council’s main priority will be to ensure that there will no detrimental impact to residents.
“We will be seeking a meeting with the FA and any prospective buyers after the local elections.”
Meanwhile, neighbours today told the Times of their fears a piece of history could be lost if the stadium is sold.
“This is a historic place and I don’t think American football should be played here. I don’t see why the FA have to sell it,” said Dan Akram, who works nearby.
Diana Petre-Nag, a mother who lives locally, told the Kilburn Times: “It sounds silly but my fiance will hold the kids up and say: ‘Look, that is your team playing right there,’ and that’s what his dad used to do with him, so it’s about tradition.
“We should be keeping it just for the British team.”
It’s thought the FA would reinvest a significant percentage of any takeover bid into grassroots football facilities across the country, but Diana views such gestures with scepticism.
“Investors build things then knock them down,” she said.
“They might agree to build pitches now to show they are giving back to the community but then after seven years is up they will knock these new astro turfs down like they did that park opposite Wembley.
“It’s just money making for them.”
Ed Lough and Joseph Harouma both study at University of Football Business, which is adjacent to Wembley stadium.
Ed said: “As a fan of English football it’s great news to hear that £500 million is going to go towards local football.
“It is great news, especially with our England youth teams already doing so well.
“My only issue with it is that a lot of taxpayer money helped to fund Wembley.”
Joseph said: “I think investment from stadium sale could really help this area.
“There is already a lot of regeneration going on but some of that money could help the local community even more.”
Tony and Maureen Jones had travelled up from Staffordshire to celebrate his birthday with a stadium tour.
Tony told the Kilburn Times: “All our assets in this country are being sold off overseas.
“I believe that we ought to at least keep our national football stadium.”
Maureen added: “I remember the ’66 world cup and all the old football days and I just think this is the wrong decision.”