Wembley stadium is set to be sold off to the owner of an American Football team for more than £500million, it emerged today.
The iconic home of English football could be handed to Shahid Khan, the billionaire owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham Football Club.
The stadium’s current owner, the Football Association, says the huge windfall could be pumped into grassroots football, but many fans are uneasy at the thought of their national stadium being privately owned.
Plans for the sale could also spark a scramble to reclaim the £40million taxpayers’ money pumped into the development of the stadium and the £120million National Lottery funding.
The Football Association are on the verge of selling Wembley Stadium in a huge £800m deal
Fulham’s billionaire owner Shahid Khan is the man who wants to buy the national stadium
Khan with his wife of 31 years Ann – the pair are pictured cheering on his side Fulham in 2013
Mr Khan has tabled a formal offer that was being discussed for the first time by the FA board this morning.
Khan, who is worth an estimated £5.2billion, is prepared to pay more than £500m in cash and allow the FA to keep the Club Wembley debenture and hospitality business that is valued at a further £300m.
If Khan were successful, it would open the door to the first NFL franchise outside the United States. The billionaire is keen to bring a permanent team to British shores, in what would be an unprecedented move.
While a deal has not yet been agreed, an FA spokesperson confirmed to Sportsmail on Thursday morning that a potential sale is in the pipeline: ‘We can confirm that The FA has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium.’
WHO PAID FOR WEMBLEY STADIUM?
Wembley Stadium opened in 2007 at a cost of £757m after work began to demolition the old ground in 2002.
Funding for the new stadium came from the FA which secured huge loans for the project as well as from Lottery-funded Sport England which paid £120m; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport which put up £20m with a further £21m coming from the London Development Agency.
In January the FA said it would finally finish paying for Wembley by the end of 2024, 17 years after it opened.
A debt of £142m reportedly remained.
Sources have also told Sportsmail that the FA hierarchy believe it is an offer that is simply too good to turn down given the cash the governing body will be able to pump back into the game; with the full £500million invested at grass roots level – particularly pitches.
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 £757m. A debt of £142m reportedly remained.
But Khan’s offer would clear the debt and release the FA from the significant financial burden of running and eventually modernising the stadium, although how much of the Pakistan-born American’s money has to be paid to the other stakeholders remains to be seen.
While Sport England paid £120m towards the cost of rebuilding Wembley, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport put up £20m with a further £21m coming from the London Development Agency.
Khan, pictured outside the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium in 2012, also owns the NFL team
He stood with his players before their game against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley in 2017
It is understood that officials at the 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 they put into the project to build the stadium.
Officials from the department are expected to hold discussions with the FA about the possible sale of the stadium, with attention given to how the money made from any sale deal will be spent.
The FA will demand certain conditions as part of any deal. Wembley will remain the home of English football as well as 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. And matches like the FA Cup final, the English Football League play-off finals and Rugby League’s Challenge Cup final would remain at Wembley.
But England’s autumn internationals will have to move away from Wembley if Khan is successful in moving his £1bn NFL franchise to London. That said, the FA believe England fans would welcome more internationals being played in other parts of the country, with one of England’s games ahead of this summer’s World Cup being held at Elland Road.
The Jaguars also faced the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley in 2016, winning the match 30-27
As part of any deal, the FA will demand that Wembley remains the home of English football
Khan already has an agreement in place to stage one Jacksonville Jaguars game at Wembley every season but he is clearly pursuing the deal to buy Wembley with NFL expansion here in the UK very much in mind.
The NFL today welcomed the move, with Vice President Mark Waller saying: ‘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.’
Quite how that impacts on Chelsea, who have considered playing at Wembley for four years while Stamford Bridge is being redeveloped, and Tottenham, who have NFL games as a key part of their business plan for their new stadium, is also unclear at this stage.
WEMBLEY Q+A: WHERE WOULD ENGLAND PLAY AND WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THE £500M?
There are plenty of questions on the lips of football fans… where will the national team play? Will the FA Cup final be affected? What will happen to the money?
With that in mind, Sportsmail‘s Laura Lambert answers the burning questions…
Where would England play?
Wembley would remain the home of English football but England’s autumn internationals would have to be played elsewhere, to make way for NFL games at Wembley, which would be held between September and December.
Where would the £500million go?
The FA has still not finished paying for Wembley, having taken a sizeable loan to meet the cost, which it is still paying interest on. In January it was announced that the FA still had £142million of debt remaining, and was due to pay this off in 2024.
Part of the £500million would therefore be spent on paying off the loan, while the remainder would be split between Wembley’s stakeholders. However, the FA would be likely to invest a large proportion of the money it would make from the sale into grass-roots football.
The majority of England’s games would still take place at Wembley regardless of a sale
What would happen to Club Wembley?
The FA would retain the rights to debenture and hospitality business Club Wembley, which is estimated to be worth around £300million. Club Wembley offers members premium seats for sports fixtures and priority access for entertainment events.
Would it still be called Wembley Stadium?
Wembley signed a multi-million pound, six-year deal with EE in 2014. The communications giant is the lead brand partner of the stadium, and it is not clear how this new deal would affect that contract.
Although the FA has stressed that the deal with EE is not strictly a naming rights deal, the official name of Wembley is Wembley Stadium connected by EE. This could, therefore, open the door for future naming rights deals.
Where would FA Cup, Challenge Cup Final and play-offs be staged?
The FA Cup final and semi-finals, The FA Community Shield, The FA Vase and Trophy Finals, EFL Cup Final, Rugby League’s Challenge Cup final and the Football League play-offs would continue to be played at Wembley.
It is only the fixtures at Wembley in the autumn that would be affected. It is understood Euro 2020 fixtures at Wembley, which includes the semi-final and final, would be able to go ahead as planned.
Who currently owns Wembley?
The FA bought Wembley in 1999, and owns it through its subsidiary Wembley National Stadium Ltd, but there are a number of stakeholders involved.
The £757million building project was funded in part by by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (which put in £20million), Sport England (which put in £120million towards the purchase of the old Wembley Stadium), and the London Development Agency (which contributed £21million).
How would Tottenham’s NFL plans be affected?
Tottenham struck a 10-year deal with the NFL to host at least two games a year at the new, £1billion White Hart Lane, which features the world’s first dividing retractable pitch. NFL invested £10million in the new stadium.
Spurs struck a 10-year deal to host at least two NFL games a year at their new stadium
How might Chelsea and any plans to temporarily move to Wembley be affected?
Chelsea have been considering moving to Wembley for £11million a season during building work to Stamford Bridge, like Tottenham have been doing during the redevelopment of White Hart Lane. It is unclear whether this would still be possible if this deal went ahead.
Would Wembley now be the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars?
It is likely that Shahid Khan would want to make Wembley the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but NFL would need to approve this. Other NFL games would continue be played at the new White Hart Lane as part of the deal with Tottenham.
Would ticket revenue go to Shahid Khan or the FA?
The FA would retain ticket rights for the events it holds at the stadium. This would mean that when it rented the stadium, for fixtures such as England games and The FA Cup final, it would keep the revenue from ticket sales.
Where would the FA be based?
For the foreseeable future, the FA’s headquarters would continue to be at Wembley. The FA moved its base from Soho Square in central London to Wembley in a £17m move in 2009.
Spurs have designed their new ground to incorporate a separate American football pitch and have NFL branding at the new site, having agreed with the NFL to stage two games each year between 2018 and 2027.
Fulham fans may be concerned by the prospect of leaving their historic ground Craven Cottage, however club sources suggested the club would not move to Wembley.
The FA are no doubt bracing themselves for criticism but they will argue that they are fairly unique among national governing bodies in owning their own stadium. Germany, for instance, do not own their own stadium.
Further to that, FA bosses would point out that it was only in 1999 that they even came to own Wembley. It was then that the FA clinched a £103m deal to purchase the crumbling Twin Towers from Wembley PLC.
Indeed at the 1966 World Cup a game in England’s group between France and Uruguay had to be moved to the White City Stadium because Wembley PLC wanted to stage a greyhound racing event.
Khan’s Fulham are flying in the Championship and could be in the Premier League next season
The 67-year-old shakes hands with Jacksonville star Brad Nortman before a game in Cleveland
Sportsmail understands that FA chief executive Martin Glenn and the hierarchy had already considered selling the stadium as part of the governing body’s long-term strategy when Khan floated the idea of buying the stadium.
They will argue it enables them to cash in on their biggest asset while retaining Club Wembley, which is their biggest income stream after their television and sponsorship deals. And they will continue to profit from ticket revenue for England matches and other FA events, simply paying the new owner for use of the stadium.
Khan has no intention of moving Fulham to Wembley. But he is no stranger to such big money deals, having paid around £550m for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015.
Who is Shahid Khan? From washing dishes for $1.20 an hour to splashing out on a £140m superyacht… meet the man primed to take over ownership of £800m Wembley
Shahid Khan is now recognised as the man with an interest in buying the home of English football and it is perhaps typical of the 67-year-old who has enjoyed a rapid rise throughout his life on the way to becoming a highly successful businessman and, of course, a billionaire.
To Fulham fans especially he is already a well-known name in the game. Khan has owned the Cottagers since 2013 and the Championship outfit are not his only sporting interests.
NFL side Jacksonville Jaguars are also under Khan’s ownership but it has not come easy having arrived in the United States from Pakistan as a teenager with just a few hundred dollars to his name.
Billionaire Khan poses with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan during talks at his Chicago apartment
Khan was born in Lahore, Pakistan in July 1950 to mother, Zakia, a maths professor, and father, Rafiq who sold surveying equipment.
Encouraged by his father, who stood for humility and frugality, Khan from an early age developed a nous for business.
As a child he would build and sell radios and perhaps with his father’s influence would not allow any opportunity to pass by without being able to make a profit.
For instance, even Khan’s childhood friends got a first-hand experience of his financial prudence as they were charged to rent his comic books.
However behind the eye for a profit there was a sporting passion too and Khan would spend many days in his childhood at the Lahore Stadium (now Gaddafi) to bask in cricket. Typically, he saved money by doing this too.
Khan would often go with his father and they never bought a ticket having always walked into the ground after tea when entrance was free.
At the age of 16 he moved to the United States to study mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana with just $500 to his name, spending his first nights at a YMCA.
Khan has NFL expansion in the UK in mind, and could even bring his Jacksonville team here
Concerned that he would quickly run out of money at the $2 a night accommodation, Khan went out the next morning to get his first job… washing dishes for just $1.20 an hour.
Soon after, the engineer by trade would start work at automotive manufacturing company Flex-N-Gate and 13 years after arriving in the United States he bought the company for $800,000.
After initially supplying a small range of bumpers to Toyota, the 1980s saw demand increase from the Japanese car manufacturer for his ‘one-piece bumpers’ to the point that by 1989 his company was the sole supplier.
As recently as 2012, Flex-N-Gate were on two-thirds of all the cars and trucks sold in the United States with sales worth $3.5billion. According to Forbes the company now has 62 plants worldwide and over 24,000 employees.
In 1991, Khan became a US citizen but it was not until 2010 when he first rekindled that childhood passion for sports while trying to purchase 60 per cent of the NFL side St Louis Rams.
Intriguingly he quickly ran into a road block put up by current Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke.
Khan has a passion for sports; he is pictured celebrating a Fulham goal away at Crystal Palace
A deal was all but agreed for Khan to purchase his stake but as a minority shareholder of the Rams Kroenke exercised a clause in his ownership agreement to match any proposed bid that denied Khan the chance to become the first ethnic minority to own an NFL team.
It took Khan another two years to land that accolade when he completed the $770m purchase of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who after a few years of failure have shown rapid improvement.
Under a new coach in Doug Marrone, the franchise recently recorded their first winning season as well as reaching the play-offs for the first time in a decade.
But NFL was not enough for Khan and just a year after purchasing the Jaguars he moved into the realms of owning a Premier League club – if only that status was brief.
Khan bought Fulham off Mohamed Al Fayed for a fee believed to be between £150m and £200m ahead of a tumultuous season for the club that would end with their relegation from the top flight.
The club were in turmoil for much of the campaign, going through three managers including Martin Jol, Rene Meulensteen and the highly unpopular Felix Magath on their way to the Championship.
Like the Jaguars, there were no immediate improvements at the club following two seasons flirting with another relegation.
Khan poses with former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed after purchasing the London club
But the appointment of Slavisa Jokanovic led to top-six finish in 2017 and this season could still end with automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Even with two sports teams under his wing, Khan continued to grow his assets and in 2016 he purchased Toronto’s Four Seasons hotel for C$225 million.
According to Forbes, Khan’s business adventures make him the 217th richest man in the world with a fortune worth £5.16bn ($7.2bn). Despite his frugal upbringing he isn’t afraid to spend some of it either.
Along with his wife Ann, who he met in 1977 and has two children with, Khan owns a stunning 312ft superyacht worth £140m named Kismet and is also the owner of three private jets.
Khan however is also not afraid to dip into his pockets for good causes. Through the Jacksonville Jaguars foundation as well as the NFL he is involved with philanthropy while in 2011 he donated $10m to the University of Illinois.
It is in Illinois where he owns a large house as well as an $8m penthouse in Park Tower, Chicago. However he also owns another large penthouse in Naples, Florida, which he purchased in 2014 for $11.5 million.