KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Wembley, iconic home of England and its national football team, could be sold within three months by the Football Association to Shahid Khan, the owner of Fulham and NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars.
It is understood the approach includes £500m for the stadium and more than £300m for the FA which would also keep revenues from the Club Wembley debenture and hospitality business.
At least two major complications must be resolved if the deal is to progress: firstly, more than £100m was granted to the FA by local and national government agencies when it bought the stadium from private ownership 20 years ago and, secondly, the other NFL franchises have a right to object to Jacksonville’s move.
A deal could also threaten Chelsea’s hope of a temporary tenure at Wembley while Stamford Bridge in rebuilt as well as Tottenham’s financially-important plans to be a venue for London NFL matches.
On the plus side, the sale of Wembley would allow the FA to make a major investment into football at grassroots level and this has doubtless been high in the mind of ceo Martin Glenn during secret negotiations over the past months.
While the FA would want to keep all its major matches at Wembley the dates clash with the winter NFL seasons could mean England having to take national team matches ‘on the road’ between November and March.
Khan, in a statement, said: “We would strive to be the best possible steward for a venue that is iconic. Wembley would return to private ownership and the Football Association would be able to focus on its core mission of developing players.
“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.”
NFL executive vice-president Mark Waller said having stadium options in London has been “critical to the NFL”.
His own statement added: “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.
“This new relationship would allow for even greater flexibility in scheduling future NFL games in London.”
Debts to pay
The 90,000-seat stadium, Britain’s largest, cost £757m to rebuild over a decade ahead of its reopening in 2007. The FA has said it expects to finish paying off construction loans by the start of 2025.
Tottenham have played their home Premier League games at Wembley this season while work on their new stadium takes place.
Spurs also have a deal with the NFL to stage a minimum of two games a season over 10 years once the new stadium is complete.