Fulham owner Shahid Khan has launched an audacious bid worth more than £500 million to buy Wembley Stadium from the Football Association, the Evening Standard has learned.
Car parts tycoon Shahid Khan – owner of Fulham FC and the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team – is understood to have struck an outline agreement with FA boss Martin Glenn to transfer the “home of English football” to foreign ownership for the first time.
The extraordinary proposal, which will send shockwaves through the sport, was being put before the full board of the domestic game’s governing body today.
If the takeover gets the go ahead more American football games are likely to be played at Wembley and it could even pave the way for an NFL franchise to be permanently based in London.
A sale is also likely to result in fewer England internationals being hosted at the 92,000 capacity north London venue – particularly during the NFL season in the Autumn. However, it would not threaten Wembley’s status as the England team’s home for all major fixtures.
Mr Khan, who is estimated to be worth around $8.7 billion (£6.25 billion) is thought to have been in secret talks with Mr Glenn and a small circle of advisers for around six months. However, the idea was first mooted when Mr Glenn and Mr Khan met at the 2017 Superbowl in Houston last February.
It is believed that the funds raised will be placed in a ring-fenced fund that could pay for up to 1500 new full sized all-weather artificial pitches the length and breadth of England.
The Standard understands that Mr Glenn, who is chief executive, and other senior FA figures at the organisation see the offer from Mr Khan as a “once in a generation” opportunity to upgrade grass roots facilities.
England lags far behind other northern European nations such as Germany and Holland in the availability of playing surfaces that can be used throughout the winter.
There are around 20,000 grass pitches in England and Wales but around one in seven games due to be played on them are lost to bad weather.
The FA also believe that new owners with deep pockets would be able to spend more on maintaining and improving the stadium and could invest in new attractions such as a Hall of Fame museum.
The stadium, which is currently also used as Tottenham’s temporary home, was finished in 2007 at a cost of almost £800 million. It replaced the original venue – famed for its “twin towers” which was first used for the 1923 FA Cup Final and was demolished in 2003.
Although the up-front proceeds are less than the original construction costs the FA will be able to keep the estimated £30 million to £40 million of revenue it receives each year from Club Wembley private boxes and hospitality packages. That makes the deal worth far more in the long-term to the FA.
However, any further detailed talks about a sale would have to involve public sector bodies Sport England, Department of Culture Media and Sport and the GLA, which sunk a combined £161 million in the construction of the stadium. The Treasury would also have a say on any final terms.
FA bosses are believed to see the organisation’s 10 year ownership of the country’s “national stadium” as an historic aberration that is not replicated in other major footballing nations.
An FA spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that The FA has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium.”