LONDON (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is eyeing a stadium deal on NFL draft day: Buying Wembley.
The English Football Association has received an offer from Khan of about 600 million pounds ($840 million) for the national soccer stadium, which would continue to host England games and major cup finals after a sale.
Wembley has staged regular-season NFL games since 2007 and Khan’s Florida-based franchise started playing at the 90,000-capacity stadium in 2013, the year Khan bought London soccer club Fulham.
He told The Associated Press he expects to own Wembley within eight to 12 weeks, increasing the prospect of an NFL franchise in London.
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“That’s possible in the long, long term,” Khan said. “Right now, it’s about having the certainty we can have three or four games there and then seeing how the market receives it and building on it.
“(Owning Wembley) gives certainty of an NFL presence in London. The first thing you want with certainty is you want a venue. And this gives us a stadium solution for us or anyone else.”
The Jaguars have a deal through 2020 to play games in London, but Wembley is facing an increasing threat for NFL games from another stadium in north London. NFL games will also be played this year at the new home of Premier League club Tottenham, which is under construction.
The 60,000-plus capacity stadium was designed with NFL-sized changing rooms and to ensure the grass soccer pitch can be retracted and kept under lights below the stands when the artificial surface is required for NFL.
But Khan envisages after the Tottenham deal expires in a decade that only Wembley could be staging NFL games in London.
Wembley, which first opened in 1923, was rebuilt at a cost of 800 million pounds before reopening in 2007. For most of its existence it has not been owned by the FA.
Selling off Wembley would give the FA up to 500 million pounds to invest in soccer development, which could increase the chances of England winning its first World Cup title since 1966. The governing body would retain the rights to hospitality packages for games, which are valued at 300 million pounds.
“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.”
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports