Jaguars owner Khan makes stunning bid for Wembley Stadium
London’s Wembley Stadium, the home of the England national soccer team, could be about to change hands after the country's Football Association received a bid for the venue from Shahid Khan, the owner of NFL American football's Jacksonville Jaguars.
The surprise offer is said to amount to £500 million ($699 million) for the stadium, with Khan, who also owns English soccer club Fulham, allowing the FA to retain its hospitality business and debenture scheme at Wembley, valued at £300 million.
In a statement, the FA said: “We can confirm that the FA has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium.”
Wembley, which was rebuilt at the start of the century, at a cost of £800 million, presently hosts England soccer matches, the FA Cup semi-finals and final, other soccer finals, NFL games, other sports events and music concerts.
The NFL connection is seen as key for Khan, particularly as there has been talk of a permanent team in London in the future, possibly the Jaguars themselves.
The NFL has staged regular-season games at Wembley every year since it reopened in 2007, and in the last few years talks between league officials and the UK government has stepped up over the prospect of a UK-based team, with 2022 cited as the most likely launch year.
The NFL's present deal with Wembley entails at least two regular-season games per year at the venue until 2020. A separate 10-year deal with Tottenham Hotspur to play at least two matches a season at the English Premier League club's new stadium in north London comes into force later this year.
Tottenham are currently playing their home games at Wembley, ahead of the opening of their new ground.
However, in a statement on Thursday, Khan stressed to Jaguars fans that his bid for Wembley would have no effect on the future base of the team, saying: "Today’s news changes none of what we envision for the long-term promise for the Jaguars here in Jax, and it changes nothing as to the goals we have for your downtown. If anything, today’s news is the embodiment of the ethos we adopted several years ago of being proud, bold and committed."
He added: "Over the past several years, it became clearer to us and the FA that the idea of our purchase of Wembley Stadium made a lot of sense for all of us. For the FA, it would mean Wembley Stadium returning to private ownership, permitting the FA to direct its full attention to its mandate to develop talent and serve the game with the vast resources it would realize from the sale.
"For the Jaguars, it would deliver another – and very significant – asset and local revenue source that would further strengthen our investment in London, which as everyone knows is crucial to the Jaguars’ continued sustainability in Jacksonville. In every respect, the Jaguars’ standing in London would be improved and dramatically enhanced if we are fortunate to be approved as the new owner and steward of Wembley Stadium, and that’s good news for the Jaguars and all of Jacksonville.
"If you’ve had the occasion to join us for one of our Jaguars home games in London, you know that Wembley Stadium is a very special place. Our commitment to the FA is we will own and operate Wembley with the care and respect it deserves, always being mindful that it is – and will continue to be – the home of England’s national teams as well as the ultimate destination for the world’s top entertainment and sports event, including Jaguars and NFL games."
Mark Waller, NFL executive vice-president of events and international, added: "We are very happy for Shad Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The potential purchase of Wembley Stadium is a further powerful sign of their commitment to the UK and their vision to help us grow the sport. Having stadium options in London has always been critical to the NFL and, in tandem with our 10-year partnership with Tottenham Hotspur, this new relationship would allow for even greater flexibility in scheduling future NFL games in London.”
If the deal goes through it is anticipated that there would be more NFL games at Wembley, and that England's autumn international games could be played away from the stadium.
The FA is likely to be tempted by the offer after it was revealed in January that the cost of rebuilding Wembley would not be paid off until 2024. It is understood that the venue still carries debts of £142 million.
Premier League club Chelsea have held talks about moving to Wembley while their Stamford Bridge stadium in west London undergoes a £1-billion renovation in the next few years, but a deal has yet to be agreed. Chelsea have reportedly offered £11 million per year to rent the national stadium.
It is unclear Khan’s Fulham, currently in the second-tier Championship, would move to Wembley as a £80-million project for the redevelopment of their Craven Cottage home, also in west London, was recently unveiled.