FA chief proposes gambling levy to fund grass roots football

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A levy on football gambling could be introduced to fund improvements in the grass roots game following the collapse of the proposed sale of Wembley Stadium, Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn has said.

Glenn failed to get the backing of the 127-member FA Council for the sale of the national stadium and the deal fell through when Fulham owner Shahid Khan withdrew his £600million offer.

But now Glenn thinks the FA should receive a levy from bookmakers on gambling on the game, something which would require government legislation.

Wembley Stadium File Photo
A deal to sell Wembley has collapsed (Adam Davy/PA)

“All those betting companies use our intellectual property to have people lay bets, so why wouldn’t a small percentage of that be put into the thing that made that possible in the first place? We, as football, could approach the government and say ‘Have you thought about something like that?’

“It doesn’t need to be a big lump sum. We’ve got £64million going into the Football Foundation between the three of us (FA, Premier League and government) – imagine if it was £80m or £100m. If we could get to that it would be brilliant.”

Glenn would also like to see local authorities encouraged to use Section 106 agreements to get developers to help build grass roots football facilities.

He added: “When Tesco build a supermarket they say, ‘Here’s the supermarket and we will give £500,000 to go into a pot’, and we don’t know how much there is but it doesn’t tend to get spent.”

Despite the collapse of his Wembley sale plan Glenn does not intend to borrow money against the stadium’s assets to help fund the estimated £15m annual cost of keeping the stadium up to date and competitive against other venues.

He said: “One thing I would rule out is that we would take debt. Part of our business plan is to pay off our debt (on Wembley) by 2024. People have said ‘why don’t you borrow money from the TV rights?’, but it doesn’t feel right. There could be chilly winds ahead.”

The Senet Group, the body which manages responsible gambling on behalf of the betting industry, believes football should be looking to scale down its relationship with gambling rather than “further monetise” it by introducing a levy to fund the grass roots game.

Gillian Wilmot, the chairman of Senet, said in a statement released to Press Association Sport: “Gambling companies already pay significantly above the market rate for the right to advertise alongside live sport.

“This is money which flows to broadcasters and ultimately benefits sport through the sale of broadcast rights.

“Instead of looking to further monetise gambling’s relationship with live sport, the FA, clubs and broadcasters should be looking to work with the gambling industry to reduce the amount of gambling advertising around football. This is in the interests of protecting young people from any potential future harm.”

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