England's Football Association (FA) has confirmed it has received an offer from US billionaire Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars American football team, to buy Wembley Stadium.
According to UK tabloid The Daily Mail, Khan, who also owns English soccer club Fulham and is worth an estimated UK£5.2 billion (US$1.4 billion), is prepared to pay more than UK£500 milion (US$700 million) in cash and allow the FA to keep the Club Wembley debenture and hospitality business that is valued at a further £300 million (US$420 million).
The FA says its board was informed of the offer at a meeting on Thursday. A spokesman for English soccer’s governing body said: "We can confirm that The FA has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium."
Should the sale be concluded, it would increase the prospect of a National Football League (NFL) franchise moving to the British capital.
Under the plan, the FA would keep Wembley as the main venue for major matches, including England internationals and the FA Cup Final, but the national soccer team could play elsewhere in October and November due to clashes with the NFL season, say reports. Wembley will also remain the home of the governing body, although Khan would be able to sell sponsorship rights to the stadium. The current deal agreed by the FA with EE expires in 2020.
In January the FA said they would finally finish paying for Wembley by the end of 2024, 17 years after the new 90,000-seater stadium was opened at a cost of UK£757 million (US$1 billion). A debt of UK£142 million (US$198 million) reportedly remained. Khan's offer would clear the debt and release the FA from the financial burden of running and modernising the stadium.
The Mail report says that officials at the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are now examining contracts from when the stadium was approved to see whether they can recoup any of the £20million (US$27 million) they put into the project to build the stadium.
In a statement Khan stressed that Wembley would remain “home to the England national teams” and that Fulham would stay at Craven Cottage in a message to the club’s fans. “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,” he said.
“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.
In a statement on the potential purchase of Wembley, the NFL says "we are very happy for Shad Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars."
Wembley first opened as English soccer's national stadium in 1923 and reopened after being rebuilt in 2007.
Khan has owned Fulham since 2013, the same year the Jaguars started playing annual regular-season NFL games in London.