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Ben Burgess column: Hope on the horizon?

Wembley Stadium could be sold
Wembley Stadium could be sold

As the season nears an end, there appears a brief glimmer of hope on the horizon.

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There have been mutterings and false dawns aplenty in recent months, but now the rumours suggest a takeover of Blackpool Football Club is finally imminent.

I’m sure nobody is getting carried away due to the possibility that Owen Oyston could still be involved in the club.

I for one do not understand why a potential investor would shell out millions of pounds to make a success of the club and then, straight away, alienate the fans by keeping the previous regime.

For just a bit more money, the investors could actually purchase Wembley Stadium. Well, maybe about £800m more!

As crazy as it sounds, Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan is in the process of trying to purchase one of the most prestigious stadiums in the world.

Everybody’s initial reaction was one of shock – “He can’t buy Wembley, it’s ours!”

“Where will England play?”

“What if they change the name?”

After the initial shock subsided, I began to realise that the deal could benefit the FA and English football in general.

Yes, Wembley will be in foreign ownership but the stadium currently haemorrhages money, resulting in the FA losing cash that should be invested back into the game.

The FA has indicated that a large proportion of the alleged income from the sale would be pumped directly into grassroots football to improve facilities.

Unfortunately, the FA have not always been the most reliable of organisations, and if this deal does get the go-ahead, it is essential that the money is ringfenced for grassroots.

The opportunity to improve football for countless children and adults is worth the gamble for me.

Khan has said that he wants England to carry on playing their fixtures at Wembley, which I understand, but I’ve always enjoyed it when the national team have travelled around the country to play.

That way it isn’t ‘London FC’ and people from all over the country would have the opportunity to experience watching international football.

Anyone who has attended or watched a Wembley international will attest to the empty seats and general lack of atmosphere.

That would be negated by playing in different and smaller venues.

As if the prospect of losing ‘our’ national stadium wasn’t bad enough, the announcement that the English Football League (EFL) is considering scrapping the mandatory matchday programme hit like a Charlie Adam thunderbolt!

Once again nostalgia kicked in and my mind drifted back to my first games watching Manchester City, when I was seven, with my dad and sisters.

I loved to study the programme and look at the players in both squads, and sometimes there was even a funny ‘spot the ball’ competition.

I would spend the car journey home reading it from cover to cover. When I take my children to games, I instinctively purchase a programme and they like reading it.

Not long ago, I came across all of my old programmes from when I started playing professionally.

There was even one from when I played against France Under-18s in a qualifying game.

I noticed a few familiar names on their squad list: Djibril Cisse and Philippe Mexes were just a couple – no wonder we lost that match.

Sadly, it looks like not all fans are in the habit of buying their matchday souvenir because sales of programmes are dwindling.

This could be down to a variety of reasons. Number one is that the whole matchday experience, from buying tickets to drinks and food is so expensive that fans are rightly loath to shell out more cash on a programme.

Number two is down to the digital world we now find ourselves inhabiting.

Increasingly, the public are consuming their news and entertainment – books, newspapers and magazines – on their devices but there remains something special about those little books that contain so many memories.