Shahid Khan’s decision to withdraw his offer to buy Wembley has been described as a “huge disappointment” and a missed opportunity by two of the biggest sponsors of grassroots facilities.The Fulham owner had offered the Football Association £600 million in cash for the stadium, as well as letting it keep the Club Wembley hospitality business, worth another £300 million.FA chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn were both strongly in favour of the deal and wanted to use the money to fix England’s dilapidated changing rooms, water-logged pitches and stretched 3G facilities.They hoped Khan’s £600 million could be the catalyst for a total investment in community facilities over the next 20 years of £3.3billion, more than double what the Football Foundation and Sport England have been able to do since 2000.But in separate statements, Glenn admitted the proposed sale had been “more divisive than anticipated”, while Khan said it had become clear “there is no definitive mandate to sell Wembley and my current proposal, subsequently, would earn the backing of only a slim majority of the FA Council, well short of the conclusive margin the FA chairman has required”.This has been on the cards ever since last week’s council meeting proved just how split football was on the idea, with some seeing it as a gilt-edged opportunity to solve one of football’s most expensive problems, while others likened it to selling the family silver and questioned the FA’s ability to invest the windfall wisely.The UK’s largest sports charity, the Football Foundation, would have been the vehicle the FA used to pick, manage and fund the projects, as it currently does with the funding it receives from the FA, Premier League and government.In a statement, it said: “News that Mr Khan has decided to withdraw his offer to buy Wembley should come as a huge disappointment to community footballers everywhere.“Football participation in this country is huge. Unfortunately, those who play the game, simply for the love of doing so and for the health benefits are having to put up with a stock of community football facilities that is in a shameful state.“This would have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make considerable inroads into probably the most pressing issue facing football in this country.”Nick Bitel, the chair of Sport England, the government agency that funds grassroots sport, was more measured but his disappointment was equally plain.“We agree with the view that the Wembley Stadium offer was a huge opportunity to boost funding into the development and maintenance of artificial and grass pitches up and down the country,” he said.“Now that this deal is off the table, we hope the football family will now consider other ways the much-needed additional funds for grassroots facilities can be generated.”Sports minister Tracey Crouch told the BBC she was “very disappointed” but a spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told Press Association Sport it was always “a matter for the FA” and any deal “would have had to further benefit the grassroots game in this country”, while the stadium remained the home of English football.For Clarke, Glenn and Khan, that was exactly what was on the table.In a statement the American billionaire released to fans of his National Football League team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Khan said “a successful transaction would have had a much-needed positive effect on the Jaguars, both in London and here in Jacksonville”.Khan had hoped to use Wembley as the Jaguars’ home field in the future, although the team’s training base was expected to remain in Florida. He had also wanted to upgrade the stadium so it could host a wider range of events, including perhaps a Super Bowl.“At the same time, the proceeds the FA would have realised from the sale would have created many opportunities for investment in their national game. An agreement that would have served everyone exceptionally well, and brought everyone together for shared success, was the one and only goal,” he said.But in his earlier statement, aimed at the “Football Association family”, Khan said he would be “willing to re-engage with the FA on this matter” if the circumstances changed.That does not appear to be likely in the short term, though.The FA’s research suggested that football was split into three equal camps on the issue: those strongly for, those passionately against and those who needed to know more before they made their minds up.The governing body had thought it was slowly winning the argument and last week told county FA bosses it thought there was 55 per cent approval for the idea.Last Thursday, however, that theory was tested at what was described as a lively meeting of the FA Council, which made the divide look more like 50/50.In a statement, the Football Supporters’ Federation chairman Malcolm Clarke, who is also an FA councillor, said: “More than 2,000 supporters took part in our consultation on the Wembley sale and we took that feedback directly to the FA Council last week.“Only one in three fans thought the FA should sell to Khan while two-thirds of supporters were against selling the stadium under any circumstances.“While the majority of fans will be pleased that the stadium will remain in the control of the FA, they recognise the need for much greater investment in grassroots pitches. It is a sobering thought that the Wembley sale would have yielded £590m and yet English football pays £250m each year to agents.”This is a point one of the sale’s main critics, former England and Manchester United defender Gary Neville, made to a committee of MPs in August.
The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Denver Broncos Sunday to advance to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots on Sunday, January 18. As the team continues their playoff run, they’ve announced their playoff events and promotions for this week. Plans include a special edition playoff poster, Poster-Drive Thru at Lucas Oil Stadium, Pep Rally, a “Blue Out Your Bar” contest and more. In addition, fans are asked to show they “Believe In Blue” by printing out a horseshoe at www.colts.com/playoffs and tweeting a photo of it displayed at their home, office or school using #BelieveInBlue.The 2014 Colts Playoffs are presented by Huntington Bank and Verizon Wireless, and sponsored in part by Bud Light.Tuesday, January 13#BelieveInBlue Social Media Campaign Begins at www.colts.com/playoffs#BelieveInBlue Video Contest Begins at www.colts.com/playoffs“Blue Out Your Bar” Contest Continues on www.colts.com/playoffs Thursday, January 15Playoff Poster Drive-Thru, Lucas Oil Stadium South Lot (6:30-8:30 a.m.)Playoff Posters Available at Participating Huntington Banks and Verizon Wireless Stores (see attached list)Pep Rally at Circle Centre Mall (12 – 1 p.m.) More details on all of these events and promotions are available below, as well as online at www.colts.com/playoffs.#BELIEVEINBLUE SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNColts Nation, do you believe? Show you #BelieveInBlue on social media by posting photos of how you are preparing for the AFC Championship Game. For example, print off the horseshoe at www.colts.com/playoffs and put it outside your office, classroom, living room, etc. and tweet a picture using #BelieveInBlue to show the team that you believe!#BELIEVEINBLUE VIDEO CONTESTLeading up to the AFC Championship Game against New England the Colts will host a video contest for a chance to be featured on Colts.com. BeginningTuesday, January 13, upload a video of you and your friends chanting “I Believe the Colts Will Win” or post it to Instagram or Vine using #BelieveInBlue. More info on www.colts.com/playoffs.“BLUE OUT YOUR BAR” PHOTO CONTEST, PRESENTED BY BUD LIGHTThe Colts are looking for bars and restaurants throughout Indiana and across the country that bleed blue. By submitting a photo of their establishment decked out in Colts décor, bars and restaurants have a chance to win a personalized, framed jersey, Reggie Wayne autographed football and NFL/Bud Light steel cooler. Photos can be submitted at www.colts.com/playoffs or using #BarBlueOut via Twitter or Instagram. The deadline to submit a photo is Sunday, January 18, at 6:40 p.m. ET.PLAYOFF POSTER DRIVE-HRU AT LUCAS OIL STADIUMOn Thursday, January 15, Colts fans are invited to drive thru and pick up a limited edition playoff poster in the south lot of Lucas Oil Stadium from 6:30-8:30 a.m., while supplies last. Colts mascot, Blue, and Cheerleaders will be on-site to help pass out the posters. The first 500 cars will receive a Colts car magnet (limit one magnet per car).In addition, posters will be available in the Emmis Communications (40 Monument Cir, Ste 700, Indianapolis) lobby from 6:30-8:30 a.m.When: Thursday, January 15, 6:30-8:30 a.m.Where: Lucas Oil Stadium South Lot (enter at Gate 8 off of Capitol Ave.)500 S. Capitol Ave, Indianapolis, Ind.PLAYOFF POSTERS AVAILABLE AT HUNTINGTON BANK AND VERIZON STORESWhile supplies last, the Colts special edition AFC Championship playoff poster will be available at participating Huntington Bank branches and Verizon stores beginning Thursday, January 15. See attached for a complete list of participating locations.PLAYOFF PEP RALLYThe Colts will host a playoff-themed Pep Rally at the Circle Centre Mall food court in Downtown Indianapolis on January 15. Beginning at noon fans are encouraged to stop by to pick up a special edition Colts Playoff poster, listen to live music from Dave & Rae and meet Colts alumni players. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free Colts t-shirt.When: Thursday, January 15, 12 – 1 p.m.Where: Circle Centre Mall Food Court (3rd Floor) 49 West Maryland StreetIndianapolis, IN What: Special Edition Colts Playoff PosterFree t-shirt for first 1,000 fansColts Alumni Players1070 The FanRegister to WinColts CheerleadersBlue, the official mascot of the ColtsLive music by Dave and Rae Friday, January 16-Saturday, January 17Colts Blood Drive at Indiana Blood Center Locations COLTS PLAYOFF BLOOD DRIVEVisit any Indiana Blood Center donor center on Friday or Saturday, January 16 or 17, and receive a Colts playoff poster and a long sleeve t-shirt with the Colts throwback logo and Indiana Blood Center logo (while supplies last). For more information visit www.indianablood.org.