SBC’s on the Ball: The Football League in focus

The culmination of the English Football League (EFL) season is upon us, meaning that the inevitable drama and heartache of the play-offs awaits.

This edition of On The Ball looks at some of the business of clubs from the EFL, as well as the a deeper look at the story that The FA could be about to sell the home of English football to the owner of Fulham.

The home of English football to be sold?

Shahid Khan, the billionaire owner of Championship side Fulham and NFL side the Jacksonville Jaguars is eyeing up the purchase of Wembley Stadium from the Football Association (FA), in a deal that’s believed to be worth around £1bn.

Khan’s offer for the stadium is touted at being around £600m, however he has outlined that he would still allow the FA to host the majority of England internationals and domestic cup games at the ground. Additionally, it’s believed that Khan would allow the FA to continue running its Club Wembley hospitality packages at the stadium.

It’s widely believed that Khan’s motive for purchasing Wembley is to secure a yearly UK venue for his Jaguars to perform this side of the pond, with it possibly being perceived as a setback for Tottenham’s potential plans to home an NFL stadium at their new stadium.

Speaking to Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek Khan urged English fans to get past the initial emotion of the deal: “I think once people get past the initial emotion, look at it with the logic, the reason why it’s good for English football, why it’s good for the FA, why it’s good for the consumer.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister, Theresa May commented on the potential deal: “This process is at an early stage and it’s ultimately a decision for the FA. But Wembley is the historic home of English football and holds a very special place in the hearts of fans up and down the country and I’m sure the FA will want to strongly consider the views of these supporters before deciding what to do next.”

Leeds criticised over pre-season tour destination

English Championship side, Leeds United have announced they will go on tour to the South East Asian nation of Myanmar, in spite of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advising against “all but essential travel” to the region.

Having been to the area to analyse whether it could be a beneficial area for the club to tour, Leeds Managing Director Angus Kinnear emphasised: “Myanmar is one of the fastest growing nations in Southeast Asia and is passionate about English football. They have ambitious goals for grassroots and elite football development that we are delighted to be able to support.

“This tour gives us an opportunity to meet new fans of football who will hopefully support our journey back to the Premier League in the coming years. From a football perspective, we welcome the opportunity for our players who have not featured much in the past six months due to injuries the chance to continue their rehabilitation.”

He added: “The squad are very excited for the chance to represent the club in Asia.”

A statement issued by the Leeds United Supporters Trust in response to the news, stated: “The Trust recognises the discontent among Leeds fans following the club’s decision to play in Myanmar.

“In light of the current Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance to avoid all but essential travel to certain areas, fans have raised understandable concerns regarding safety of those choosing to travel to support the team as well as ethical questions regarding a decision to visit a country with significant political unrest.

“We have asked the club regarding this and a club spokesperson has offered the following comment to our questions.”

The final chapter for football programmes?

Clubs from the  EFL are set to vote on whether the publication of a matchday  programme continues to be compulsory.

There are currently requirements in place that mean clubs have to dedicate sections of their pages to both EFL initiatives and the Football League Foundation, however should the EFL is willing to allow clubs to utilise space on their online platforms to fulfil these requirements.

A statement from the EFL revealed: “A number of clubs have asked the EFL if the mandatory publication of a match programme can be addressed as a result of an overall decline in sales and the proliferation of digital and social media, which has the ability to deliver the same content in a more cost‑effective manner.”

Safe standing for Salop

After a stunning campaign, Shrewsbury Town have booked their place in the League One play-offs, finishing only behind Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic in the final standings.

Should Shrewsbury be playing in the second or third tier next season, their fans will be able to watch the club whilst standing up. As work will begin in May for the club to become the first English club to install a safe standing section. Furthermore, the club has also confirmed that the seats won’t be limited to just the season ticket holders, with approximately 555 safe standing tickets available per game at the Montgomery Waters Meadow stadium.

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