Wembley Stadium could be sold by the FA for £1billion to the billionaire American owner of Fulham FC, it emerged today.
67-year-old Shahid Khan owns NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars and it is believed any deal would be with an eye on making them the first outside of the USA.
The deal would reportedly see FA offices remain at the iconic ground, while key domestic matches and England internationals would be played at the 90,000 capacity stadium.
Writing on the official Fulham FC website, Khan moved to assure England fans over the future of Wembley as their home.
Today’s @EveningStandard exclusive: Wembley is for sale – US billionaire Shahid Khan, owner of Fulham FC and the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, has put in a £500m plus bid and has an outline agreement with the FA pic.twitter.com/ul1alKgi5f
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) April 26, 2018
‘Wembley would be home to England’
He wrote: “Wembley Stadium would return to private ownership and the Football Association would be able to focus on its core mission of developing players with the best player developers and facilities anywhere in the game, thanks in part to the vast financial benefit that would result from the transaction.
“I trust many, if not most of you, are also supporters of the England national teams, so I hope you welcome the potential of this becoming a reality.
“Always know Wembley would be home to the England national teams, and that we would strive every day of the year to be the best possible steward for a venue that is iconic and beloved here and throughout the world.”
Speculation suggested that Fulham could be relocated from their west London home at Craven Cottage to Wembley, but Khan also dismissed those rumours.
‘100 percent independent of Fulham’
Khan added on Fulham: “To be clear, this venture is 100 percent independent of my investment in and operation of Fulham Football Club, (training ground) Motspur Park and Craven Cottage.
Shad Khan bidding for Wembley. Good news if #eng go back on the road occasionally. Team belongs to all the country.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) April 26, 2018
“No less attention will be paid to developing players and fielding a squad that will win with frequency and always make you proud. It will have no impact on Craven Cottage as the home of FFC.”
‘I hope Khan is telling the truth’
Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab, writer for the ‘Shutdown Corner’ NFL blog, said: “I’ll take (Shahid) Khan at his word that he wants to keep the team in Jacksonville, but still remain skeptical because all the signs point to the NFL wanting a team in London and the Jaguars being the top candidate.
‘”And you’d think it would become much easier with the Jaguars owner also owning an iconic stadium there.
“With the recent wave of new stadiums or relocations in the NFL, there isn’t an obvious candidate to move to London other than the Jaguars.
“With either new stadiums or relocations for the Raiders, Rams, Chargers, Falcons and Vikings to name a few, all NFL teams seem to be on solid footing in their current home.
“That’s why Jacksonville fans should be at least a bit concerned, and hope Khan is telling the truth when he talks about his desire to keep the team there.”
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According to the Evening Standard, the offer was being put before the full FA board today, and an outline agreement between Khan and FA chief executive Martin Glenn is already in place.
It also reports that the money raised would be ring-fenced for investment in grass-roots programmes.
In a further statement released to PA Sport, Khan said: “I’ve enjoyed a rewarding relationship with The Football Association for years and my more recent exchanges and time spent with Martin Glenn have served to further strengthen a connection with the FA that made it natural and ultimately possible for both parties to consider this transaction.
“Working with Martin and his team has been a pleasure and clearly productive. Should we be fortunate to close on the purchase, it’s important to stress that the spirit and essence of Wembley would be unchanged. Wembley is a special place, beloved in London and known throughout the world.
“I understand the responsibility and accountability that would be ours to accept, and at all times we will be guided so the stadium and Wembley brand are both protected and enhanced.
“We will take excellent care of Wembley Stadium in every respect, and at all times be good citizens and neighbours here in London and beyond.
“I am grateful for all of my experiences and investments in London, and am privileged to have this opportunity with the FA to forge an agreement that I am certain will be a victory for everyone.”
‘A powerful sign of commitment to the UK’
The NFL released a statement which read: “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.”
Selling off Wembley could allow FA to take the FA Cup semifinals & England games around the country – and provide huge cash injection into grassroots football that could transform the game
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) April 26, 2018
The FA said in a statement: “We can confirm that the FA has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium.”
The FA told Press Association Sport that it had nothing further to add at present, while Tottenham declined to comment.
Erm, why is Shahid Khan spending Fulham's Prem transfer budget on Wembley Stadium? Think we should buy Isco instead
— Dean Jones (@DeanJonesBR) April 26, 2018
‘I hope this hasn’t caught Daniel Levy out’
Spurs season ticket holder Henry Tribe, 33, said: “I just hope this Wembley deal hasn’t caught Daniel Levy out.
“I know our new stadium is part-funded by hosting some NFL games in the coming years, so having a bigger stadium in London offering to host matches might not be great news for the future of the club.
“I’m sure Daniel Levy’s contract with the NFL is watertight, but once the deal to host matches expires in ten years they might switch to Wembley, which would leave us with something of a problem – the stadium is specifically designed to host NFL matches, with a separate sliding synthetic grass pitch.
“Personally I’ll be very glad to see the back of Wembley this season – it’s a ground with very little atmosphere and and situated in an area that’s very hard to get away from at the end of a game.”
‘The man to bring the first NFL franchise to London’
Fulham fan – and season ticket holder – Thomas Mcllroy, 27, said he was left in no doubt about Khan’s intentions.
“I wasn’t that worried about moving from Craven Cottage due to the plans for the redevelopment of the Riverside Stand,” he said.
“I think it is clear now that when Shahid Khan took over Fulham it was to establish himself as the man to bring the first NFL franchise to London.
“While he has remained committed to Jacksonville for the time being, he is definitely positioning himself and the Jaguars as the side most likely to move.
“But while Khan oversaw Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League, if this doesn’t affect the financial backing he gives the Whites – and he’s said it won’t – It shouldn’t have any real effect.
“His statements have definitely calmed down a lot of those theories and he’s proving to be a good chairman at the moment, with Fulham looking like a team on the up.”
Khan statement in full
It was revealed today that I have made an offer to purchase Wembley Stadium from The Football Association. To everyone in the Fulham Family, I wanted you to be among the first to hear the news, directly from me, and share a bit of background.
As you likely know, in addition to the privilege of serving as Chairman of Fulham Football Club, I am also owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League in the U.S. The Jaguars have played regular season home games at Wembley Stadium in each of the past five NFL seasons and will continue to do so at least through the 2020 season. The games the Jaguars play at Wembley are essential to the financial stability of the Jaguars in Jacksonville, which is one of the smallest markets in the NFL. If my ownership interests were to include Wembley Stadium, it would protect the Jaguars’ position in London at a time when other NFL teams are understandably becoming more interested in this great city. And the stronger the Jaguars are in London, the more stable and promising the Jaguars’ future will be in Jacksonville.
As important, Wembley Stadium would return to private ownership and The Football Association would be able to focus on its core mission of developing players with the best player developers and facilities anywhere in the game, thanks in part to the vast financial benefit that would result from the transaction. I trust many if not most of you are also supporters of the England national teams, so I hope you welcome the potential of this becoming a reality. Always know Wembley would be home to the England national teams, and that we would strive every day of the year to be the best possible steward for a venue that is iconic and beloved here and throughout the world.
No matter what the outcome of our offer may be, I want to emphatically state to you that none of this will have any effect on my commitment to your Club.
To be clear, this venture is 100 per cent independent of my investment in and operation of Fulham Football Club, Motspur Park and Craven Cottage. No less attention will be paid to developing players and fielding a squad that will win with frequency and always make you proud. It will have no impact on Craven Cottage as the home of FFC. And this is imperative to know, and I encourage you to spread the word – absolutely nothing changes in our plans to redevelop the Riverside Stand.
I hope you will support my effort in this endeavour, and I know you’re with me in wishing our First Team the very best tomorrow night against Sunderland as we take aim at promotion in the final two weekends of the season. I have submitted programme notes for tomorrow’s match that reflect upon our magical campaign and the opportunity ahead, and I’ll have them posted online here at fulhamfc.com in advance of kick-off.
In case you don’t get a chance to read the notes, let me take this opportunity to thank you for all you’ve done to make this a record-breaking season at Fulham Football Club. Come On You Whites!