LONDON >> Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has made an offer to buy Wembley Stadium from the English Football Association, increasing the prospect of an NFL franchise in London.
Wembley has staged regular-season NFL games since 2007 and the Jaguars started playing at the stadium in 2013 — the year Khan bought London soccer club Fulham.
Khan offered about 600 million pounds ($840 million) for the national soccer stadium, which would continue to host England national team games. The governing body would retain the rights to hospitality packages for games, which are valued at 300 million pounds.
Wembley, which first opened in 1923, was rebuilt at a cost of 800 million pounds before reopening in 2007. The Jaguars have a deal through 2020 to play games in London.
“The games the Jaguars play at Wembley are essential to the financial stability of the Jaguars in Jacksonville, which is one of the smallest markets in the NFL,” Khan said. “If my ownership interests were to include Wembley Stadium, it would protect the Jaguars’ position in London at a time when other NFL teams are understandably becoming more interested in this great city. And the stronger the Jaguars are in London, the more stable and promising the Jaguars’ future will be in Jacksonville.”
Khan said a takeover of Wembley would “have no impact on Craven Cottage,” which is his soccer team’s current home in the Fulham district of west London by the River Thames.
Selling off Wembley would give the FA about 500 million pounds to invest in grassroots soccer, which could increase the chances of the England team winning its first World Cup title since 1966.
“For the FA,” Khan said, “it would mean Wembley Stadium returning to private ownership, permitting the FA to direct its full attention to its mandate to develop talent and serve the game with the vast resources it would realize from the sale.”
An FA delegation, including England coach Gareth Southgate, attended the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in February.
“I’ve enjoyed a rewarding relationship with The Football Association for years and my more recent exchanges and time spent with (chief executive) 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,” Khan said.
“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.”
NFL games will also be played later this year at the new north London stadium of Premier League club Tottenham, which is under construction.
In tandem with the Tottenham deal, Waller said the Jaguars owning Wembley “would allow for even greater flexibility in scheduling future NFL games in London.”