LONDON (Reuters) - England’s Football Association is in negotiations to sell Wembley Stadium, the home of the national soccer team, to U.S. billionaire Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A spokesman for the FA confirmed on Thursday it had received an offer to buy the stadium and British media said the deal could be worth up to 1 billion pounds.
Under the plan, the FA would keep Wembley as the main venue for major matches, including England internationals and the FA Cup Final, but the national soccer team could play elsewhere in October and November due to clashes with the U.S. National Football League (NFL) season.
In a statement Khan said his bid was not a precursor to moving the Jaguars, who have played one home NFL game per season at Wembley since 2013, to London permanently.
“For the Jaguars, it would deliver another - and very significant - asset and local revenue source that would further strengthen our investment in London,” Khan who is also the owner of English second tier soccer team Fulham, said.
“Today’s news changes none of what we envision for the long-term promise for the Jaguars here in Jax, and it changes nothing as to the goals we have for your downtown.”
British media reported that Khan, who is worth $7.2 billion (5.15 billion pounds) according to Forbes, is ready to pay more than 500 million pounds.
He would also allow the FA to keep the Club Wembley debenture and hospitality business that is valued at a further 300 million pounds.
The 90,000-seater stadium was rebuilt at a cost of 757 million pounds on the site of the original ground where England won the World Cup in 1966.
The new stadium opened in 2007 and the FA said last January it would repay its debt, which was reported by the Evening Standard to be 142 million pounds, by 2024.
The money from the sale of Wembley would allow the governing body to reinvest in the English game’s grassroots, particularly pitches, and stage more England games way from the capital, a plan to which it is already committed.
Alfie Crow, Jaguars fan and editor of Big Cat Country, a blog covering the Jaguars, downplayed suggestions that the deal could herald a permanent move to London for the NFL team.
“I think the signals of the Jaguars relocating to London are premature and very assumptive at this point,” he told Reuters.
“Khan has invested a lot in the areas around the NFL stadium in Jacksonville with plans to develop even more around it, so it would be millions of dollars down the drain if the ultimate plan was simply to rip the team away as all of that comes to fruition. For now, I view it as just a value investment with a lot of potential return for Khan.”
Writing by William Schomberg and Neil Robinson; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Toby Davis