“Leave Wembley? Leave Wembley?! What a ludicrous idea!”
Out-roar and outcry are screaming from the terraces, the masses are revolting, the people are….wait, why do England have to play in London? A City so distant from large parts of the country that they are no longer willing to travel.
As a country we are incredibly Capital-centric and no less so than in football in which we play our national football in a stadium that is a ridiculous 4 hour drive away from cities like Newcastle or Plymouth.
Against Norway in 2015 England had an attendance of just 40,181 fans. 40,181 in a stadium that can fit 90,000. How can you justify using Wembley with a paltry attendance such as that? You could have filled Villa Park and created an attendance that goes beyond the cringe of a Mexican wave.
Spain, Germany and Brazil all hold their international matches in different stadiums across the country and have a much greater affinity with the supporters.
The national side should represent the nation, not London.
Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton, Plymouth – why would any of them travel across the country to see their team take on the bankers and barmen of San Marino in a friendly?
Why would you make the 545 mile round trip from Newcastle to Wembley to watch a ‘home game’? Spending £145 on tickets and petrol to watch England vs San Marino is enough to warrant a phone call from your bank regarding Credit Card fraud. It’s more than San Marino’s players earned for playing the match.
But if you bring the team to the supporters and take it to Manchester, take it to Southampton, take it to Newcastle then you begin to regain support and credibility.
Financially we no longer need to justify Wembley. The FA have just agreed a £300m package to refinance their loan and its contract ends in 2017.
Further income will arrive from the National Football League’s venture into England where Wembley will play host to three games this year.
The NFL are also actively exploring the option of a London based franchise and Jacksonville Jaguars, funded by Fulham’s owner Shahid Khan, appear to be the frontrunners. Any such move would net the FA millions, finance is no issue.
We have readymade stadiums around the country in St James Park, Old Trafford, Villa Park and St Mary’s that would all be available for England games. While Wembley could then be kept for major games such as crucial qualifiers or high profile friendlies.
By hosting matches in every major county in England you are allowing people an opportunity to actually engage with their national side.
Bring the football to the people and let the few revolt if they wish, because in its current state Wembley’s heart and soul is being desecrated. Sheet-by-sheet as we are forced cover up those empty seats.