FA receives offer to buy Wembley; NFL backs Shad Khan as new owner
The Football Association (FA) of England has announced it has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium, with the NFL backing Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan the potential new owner.
The FA said in a statement: "We can confirm that the FA has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium."
The NFL said in a statement: "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."
The London Evening Standard reported that a £500 million bid was being put before the full FA board on Thursday and that an outline agreement between Khan and FA chief executive Martin Glenn is already in place. The FA would also retain the Club Wembley hospitality business, which is worth an additional £300m to take the deal to around £800m.
In a statement on Fulham's website, Khan outlined why the offer is in the interest of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the England national team.
"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," he wrote.
"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."
The Standard also reports that the money raised would be ring-fenced for investment in grass-roots programmes.
Speaking to Press Association Sport, Khan said he hoped to have the purchase completed in the next three months.
"I am speaking for myself, this is very fresh, so [we need to do] the due diligence to really identify what new investment would be needed and confirm all the structural aspects," Khan told the outlet.
"I think that can be done in the next eight weeks or so. That ties up with the World Cup schedule.
"So, you know, early fall, like August, maybe two to three months from now, is what we're targeting for a full close.''
When asked whether English football's showpiece events -- such as the League Cup and the FA Cup finals -- will continue to be held at the stadium, Khan said: "I absolutely see that continuing at Wembley.
"That is part and parcel of the legacy and the history is football.
"It generates revenue for the FA, so that is part of the package in the assets the FA would retain, and they would be played at Wembley.''
Responding to the news later on Thursday, Jaguars president Mark Lamping said Khan's desire to purchase Wembley does not mean he wants to move the franchise permanently to London. He pointed out that Khan has invested $76 million of his own money into improvements at city-owned EverBank Field and the team recently revealed plans for Khan partner with The Cornish Cos. on a $2 billion revitalization/entertainment district around the stadium.
However, Lamping did not rule out the team playing multiple games in London in the future.
"I would ask fans to judge us on our actions, not on what possibly their fears might be," Lamping said. "Shad does business all over the world. When Shad bought the Four Seasons hotel in Toronto, some people were saying, 'Oh, here it comes. The Jaguars are moving to Toronto.' Obviously nothing like that occurred.
"Our behavior here in Jacksonville has been the exact opposite of what you would expect an owner if he was planning to leave the market."
Lamping added that Khan's purchase of the stadium would -- in addition to creating additional revenue streams (food and beverage sales, suite revenue) that would strengthen the team's financial stability in Jacksonville -- allow the Jaguars to play an additional game at Wembley if they chose to.
However, Lamping said that's not in the team's immediate plans.
"We view our London game as supplemental to what we do here in Jacksonville," he said.
"Jacksonville drives the Jaguars, not London. London is a strategic part of our plan. If we reach the point where we believe that it's in the franchise's best interests here in Jacksonville to invest in other businesses or perhaps move a second game to London, the only thing that this does is it makes that process a lot easier.
"But, again, it's important to remind everyone that's not our decision. We simply can't decide on a whim to move a second game to London. That's only one with the approval of the National Football League and the consent of other NFL owners."
The stadium opened in 2007 and has an official capacity of 90,000.
Press Association and ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco contributed to this report.