Jaguars owner makes Wembley takeover offer

Shahid Khan, owner of NFL American football team the Jacksonville Jaguars, has submitted an offer to purchase London’s Wembley Stadium from the English Football Association.

Details of the offer have not been disclosed but UK newspaper The Guardian reported that Khan has offered about £500m (€574m/$700m) for the stadium, while the FA would retain rights to Club Wembley, the stadium’s debenture and hospitality business which is understood to be worth in the region of £300m.

Wembley reopened its doors in 2007, seven years after the original stadium in London was last used, following a £757m redevelopment project that transformed it into a modern 90,000-seat venue.

The Guardian added that the semi-finals and final of the FA Cup club competition would continue to be played at Wembley should the deal be accepted. The FA is also said to be keen on ‘Wembley’ being retained in the stadium’s official name should any sponsorship deal be signed.

The offer, which Khan hopes to conclude in eight to 12 weeks, would rid the FA of debts relating to the redevelopment of the stadium and allow the body to invest significantly in grassroots football. Despite being re-financed at favourable rates two years ago, the FA in January said it had the opportunity to clear the remaining £142m debt completely by the end of 2024.

Commenting on the news the FA said: “We can confirm that the FA has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium.”

Khan is also owner of London-based football club Fulham, which is currently vying for promotion from the second-tier Championship. In a statement published on Fulham’s official website, Khan stressed that the club would continue to play its home games at Craven Cottage should his Wembley offer be accepted.

Khan’s Jaguars currently have a multi-year deal in place with the NFL to play games in London as part of the league’s annual International Series, and the 67-year-old said that the Wembley offer has been submitted with this in mind.

“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,” Khan said. “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.”

Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice-president of events and international, also welcomed the news. “We are very happy for Shad Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars,” he said. “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.”