Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise, bids to buy Wembley
Khan's offer for the iconic London soccer stadium said to be worth $1.4bn
NFL says the offer is a "powerful sign" of Khan's intent to grow the sport in the UK
It’s the home of English football and one of the most iconic venues in world sport — and it could be about to get a new American owner.
The English Football Association confirmed Thursday it has received an offer to buy Wembley Stadium, while Shahid Khan, the owner of the NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars, revealed he was behind the reported $1.4 billion bid.
The NFL has hosted games at Wembley, located in north London, since 2007 with three further games set to take place in October.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have already played five games at Wembley over the last six years, most recently in October 2017.
“I am very pleased to learn today that The Football Association board of directors received our offer to purchase Wembley Stadium, our home away from home in London, from the FA,” said Khan in a statement.
“One of the many benefits of the Jaguars’ commitment to London has been our partnership with the FA and Wembley Stadium.
“Over the past several years, it became clearer to us and the FA that the idea of our purchase of Wembley Stadium made a lot of sense for all of us.”
Khan stressed his belief that it would allow the FA to reinvest the money generated from the sale into grassroots soccer, while strengthening the Jaguars position at home and abroad.
“If you’ve had the occasion to join us for one of our Jaguars home games in London, you know that Wembley Stadium is a very special place,” added Khan.
“Our commitment to the FA is we will own and operate Wembley with the care and respect it deserves, always being mindful that it is – and will continue to be – the home of England’s national teams as well as the ultimate destination for the world’s top entertainment and sports event, including Jaguars and NFL games.”
Khan’s Jaguars have long been linked with a permanent move to the UK, with the billionaire also the owner of the Fulham soccer team, which plays in English football’s second tier.
The Pakistani-born businessman also issued a statement on Fulham’s website, reassuring fans that his bid for Wembley would not impact the team.
The NFL expressed its delight at a possible deal between Khan and the FA as it continues to grow American Football outside of the US.
“We are very happy for Shad Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars,” NFL executive vice-president of events and international Mark Waller said in a statement.
“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.”
North London-based soccer team Tottenham opens its new stadium later this year and is due to host the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks on October 14.
A total of 317,000 spectators attended the four London-based 2017 NFL International Series games hosted at Wembley and the Twickenham rugby stadium.
It remains to be seen how a potential sale would be received by English soccer fans, who have been visiting the stadium since 1923.
The stadium was demolished and rebuilt before being reopened as a 90,000-seater arena in 2007, with the total cost of the work estimated to be £1 billion.
The old stadium was the site of English football’s greatest triumph, when it lifted the World Cup on home soil in 1966.