POLITICS
23/05/2018 13:57 BST | Updated 24/05/2018 16:35 BST

Theresa May Refuses To Intervene In Sale Of Wembley To American Billionaire

£161m of public cash was used to spruce up 'home of English football' but May dismisses £800m deal as 'private matter'.

Theresa May has refused to intervene in the sale of Wembley Stadium to an American billionaire, despite £161m of public cash having been used to refurbish the arena.

Pakistani-American billionaire Shahid Khan has made a £800m offer to buy the much-loved 90,000-seat venue from the Football Association (FA), but fans have voiced concerns over the possible sell-off. 

It would be the first time stadium - regarded by many as “the home of English football” - would have been taken into foreign ownership. 

There are also fears the FA would fail to reinvest any cash windfall it received from the sale back into the game. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

The 90,000-seat venue has received around £161m from public bodies, including Sport England, during the redevelopment project.

As part of securing taxpayers cash, the FA signed an agreement to maintain a controlling interest in Wembley over 50 years. 

But during PMQs in the Commons, the Prime Minister called the proposed sale “a private matter”.

Labour MP Justin Madders told her Saturday’s match between Chelsea and Manchester United “could be the last FA Cup final played at Wembley before it is sold to an overseas owner.” 

He went on: “Now, when Premier League clubs spend hundreds of millions of pounds on wages and transfers, does the Prime Minister agree with me that there is more than enough money in the game for there to be no need to sell off this iconic national asset.” 

The PM replied: “That is a decision for the owners of Wembley. That is a private matter. It is not a matter for the government.” 

The shadow culture, media and sport secretary Tom Watson, meanwhile, hit out at May’s response. 

A one-off meeting between Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and FA and Sport England representatives is due to take place in Parliament on July 18. 

Just moments later in the Commons, the PM was asked to underline her commitment to a free market by Brexiteer Tory backbencher Philip Davies. 

He asked: “Prime Minister, I believe in the free market. I believe in individual freedom, individual responsibility and I am suspicious of the nanny state. 

“Am I still a Conservative?” 

A question to which May simply replied: “Yes.” 

After PMQs, a spokesman for Number 10 said of the Wembley deal: “It’s a commercial matter, but the Prime Minister would urge the FA to consider the views of the fans.

“There has been significant public investment in Wembley by Sport England and elsewhere.”