FA has been offered the deal of the century over Wembley, says Paul Merson
Last Updated: 27/04/18 8:31am
The FA has been offered "the deal of the century" by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, according to The Debate panel.
The proposed agreement, revealed on Thursday, will give the FA £500m to reinvest in grassroots football, while Wembley will remain as the home venue for the England national team.
Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson sees the arrangement as a "no-brainer", and believes that tackling the country's problem of obesity among young people must now receive the focus it deserves.
"I think it's a great idea, and the main thing is it's for grassroots," he said. "It ticks all the boxes. I think it's the deal of the century for the FA.
"We could have 1,500 4G pitches, but are we the only country that charges people for using them? You'd hope it would be free. I can't think of too many other countries where you have to pay to play on a pitch.
"With a bad winter here, you can go eight weeks without playing, and in that time, that's enough to take up another interest.
"I think this gives the FA a good name again. This gets the public back on their side. With obesity in the country, that needs to change, and our national sport is football.
"My only issue is that when England are playing at Wembley and it's called the Taco Bell Stadium. The way you get your money back is by selling the name of the stadium.
"It's a no-brainer. I can't see too many people going against it. It clears the debt, the FA stays there, England can still play their games there."
The deal would mean the Three Lions playing some home games elsewhere in the country during the autumn.
But the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and play-off finals will still be played at Wembley, while the FA will keep their Club Wembley hospitality business - valued at £300m.
The FA is reportedly £142m in debt which is not due to be cleared for another six years, and former Arsenal striker Alan Smith believes Khan has got the governing body "out of jail" with his offer.
"I think it's a good deal as it was a weight around the neck of the FA that debt," Smith said.
"This will free up a lot of money for grassroots which I think has been under-funded. I'm quite pleased and excited about it.
"Whether having pitches there is going to persuade people to go out we'll see, but it can't harm.
"There needs to be more facilities and good facilities to take kids away from the Playstation. The 4G pitches are top class and they can be a real revenue-earner. It's win-win on all sides.
"When the phone call came in from Shahid Khan, I'm sure the FA were rubbing their hands. I heard the floodlights need replacing, which will cost £2m - an amount that could have been spent on grassroots. I just hope the money goes into the right areas."