Sir Geoff Hurst would support the sale of Wembley if it led to major investment in grassroots football – provided a bust of World Cup-winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey retains pride of place at the stadium.
The Football Association is still pondering a £600million offer from Fulham owner Shahid Khan for the site, but any deal would see the national side continue to play at its traditional home through a leasing agreement.
Hurst, whose Wembley hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final provided the English game with its finest hour, can see the wider benefits of selling.
Gary Neville spoke for many critics when he told a government select committee last month that it would be “ridiculous” to proceed, but the 76-year-old England great disagrees.
Hurst, who was at Wembley for Sunday’s Community Shield with grassroots sponsor McDonald’s, told Football Paradise: “There are arguments on both sides and nobody understands about the heritage of the national stadium more than me, but I am probably leaning more towards a successful sale.
“If nothing much changes, the international teams still play here and the enormous amount of money that comes is used constructively it could be fantastic.
“Investment in facilities, investment in coaching and keeping football as the number one sport in the country, bringing money for grassroots…it’s such an important area for young kids.
“Channelling kids towards sport and not into those things they shouldn’t be doing could bring a big social aspect as well as a sporting aspect.”
Hurst has drawn one line in the sand, though.
A likeness of Ramsey has been stationed in the players’ tunnel since 2009 in honour of his achievements and Hurst feels retaining that as a legacy to the heroes of ’66 should be non-negotiable.
“When I walked out here I walked past the bust of Sir Alf and if that was ever taken away I’d be bitterly disappointed,” he said.
“That is a classic example of the things we would want to remain. There are some nice pictures of me around the place too, in the halls, and I hope they stay but they’re not as important as Sir Alf Ramsey. That’s real heritage.”
– Sir Geoff Hurst MBE was speaking at the 2018 FA & McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards, celebrating grassroots heroes across England. Find out more: www.mcdonalds.co.uk/grassroots
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P