Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has made an offer to buy Wembley Stadium from the Football Association, saying it would be a “victory for everyone”.
Completed in 2007 at a reported cost of £800 million, the 90,000-seater national stadium is one of the best sporting venues in Europe. Now there is the spectre of Wembley changing hands.
The FA has confirmed it has “received an offer” to buy the stadium - which the London Evening Standard reports to be a £500 million bid that will be put before the full FA board on Thursday.
An outline agreement between Khan and FA chief executive Martin Glenn is said to already be in place, with the Fulham chairman confirming his intention to buy the national stadium in a statement.
“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,” he said.
“An agreement would result in Wembley Stadium returning to private ownership, permitting the FA to fully focus on its core mission, which includes the development of talent and serving the game from grassroots to the men’s and women’s national teams, all with the benefit of long-term funding made possible by 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.
“Always know that Wembley will be home to England’s national teams and, under our stewardship, continue to be a destination for top global football matches and championships, as well as major events such as NFL football games and concerts.
“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.”
Khan added: “If my ownership interests were to include Wembley Stadium, it would enhance the Jaguars’ position in London.
“And the stronger the Jaguars are in London, the more stable and promising the Jaguars’ future will be in Jacksonville.
“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.”
Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic said on Friday that “very ambitious” Khan had told him about this “plan a year and a half ago”.
The Championship promotion hopefuls host relegated Sunderland on Friday, ahead of which the chairman wrote an open letter to Fulham fans to allay any concerns over his commitment.
“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,” Khan said.
“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.”
Khan’s move to buy Wembley is understood to be focused on strengthening the Jacksonville Jaguars’ standing in the UK.
The NFL franchise has played regular season home games at Wembley in each of the past five campaigns and will continue to do so until at least 2020 - games that are “essential to the financial stability of the Jaguars in Jacksonville”.
Khan’s purchase of the stadium would allow him to “protect the Jaguars’ position in London at a time when other NFL teams are understandably becoming more interested”.
Tottenham signed a 10-year agreement with the NFL in 2015 for regular season games to be staged at their new stadium, kicking off with the Seattle Seahawks facing the Oakland Raiders on October 14.
The Jaguars take on SuperBowl champions Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley on October 28.