The Football Association is currently in talks to potentially sell Wembley Stadium to Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham owner Shahid Khan for £500m, according to an article in the Guardian. The FA is considering the move in order to clear its debt from the remodeling of Wembley and to help finance football in the lower leagues. The FA would retain control over Club Wembley and hospitality ventures within the stadium, worth approximately £300m.
However, it could also have much more cynical and, for Khan, financially profitable results. According to the Evening Standard, the sale of Wembley to Khan could have a huge impact the future of the National Football League’s footprint in the United Kingdom, and could also directly impact Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium.
The Standard writes that Khan is interested in Wembley in part because he wants to permanently relocate the Jaguars to London, and use Wembley to play the franchise’s home games. That’s important to Tottenham and to chairman Daniel Levy, because Levy had tried to position the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the most likely home for any future London NFL expansion team. Khan’s proposal could potentially disrupt that plan.
The sale of Wembley would not affect Tottenham’s existing deal with the NFL, which would mean Spurs’ stadium would still host up to two NFL games per year for the next decade. However, the stadium was clearly constructed so that Spurs would be well poised to take advantage of any future expansion of the NFL to London, something that looks likely to happen eventually. Spurs are set to host their first NFL game sometime next fall. Jacksonville has played one NFL game at Wembley Stadium every season since 2013.
So short term, selling Wembley to Khan doesn’t affect Spurs all that much, but it could be hugely impactful on a long term basis. The money that would be generated by a permanent NFL team is substantial and obviously would be used to help pay of the £800m stadium’s construction costs, and was the primary factor in why Levy and Spurs decided to install the state-of-the-art retracting pitch. It seems pretty clear that Khan is attempting to swoop in and hijack that long-term arrangement.
Another potential question is how any potential sale of Wembley could affect Chelsea, which is in the final planning stages of a huge refurbishment of Stamford Bridge and like Tottenham was trying to secure use of Wembley for its’ home games for at least two seasons. Neither article mentioned Chelsea, but it would be interesting to see how any potential sale would affect Chelsea’s proposed rental.
Under proposed terms of the sale, the FA Cup finals and semi-finals would continue to be held at Wembley, and it would still be considered “England’s home stadium” for international matches. The Guardian reports that any profits the FA would receive from the sale of Wembley would be directed to the lower leagues of English football for pitch improvements and other infrastructure. The sale would also wipe away the FA’s remaining debt from the remodeling of Wembley. The FA would also like to see “Wembley” remain in the stadium name in some capacity.
Khan also insists that this deal would have no impact on his role as owner of Fulham Football Club, which has a chance to promote back to the Premier League this season.
“The Football Association would be able to focus on its core mission of developing players with the best player developers and facilities anywhere in the game, thanks in part to the vast financial benefit that would result from the transaction.
“I trust many, if not most of you, are also supporters of the England national teams, so I hope you welcome the potential of this becoming a reality. Always know Wembley would be home to the England national teams, and that we would strive every day of the year to be the best possible steward for a venue that is iconic and beloved here and throughout the world.
“To be clear, this venture is 100% independent of my investment in and operation of Fulham Football Club, Motspur Park and Craven Cottage. No less attention will be paid to developing players and fielding a squad that will win with frequency and always make you proud. It will have no impact on Craven Cottage as the home of FFC.”
As far as its impact on Tottenham, it’s important to note that the deal is not finalized. Apart from the current deal between the NFL and Tottenham, nothing else had been formally agreed to, and even if there had been some sort of “gentleman’s agreement” between the NFL and Tottenham to make Spurs’ stadium the future permanent home of the NFL in London, things can change in sport pretty quickly and sometimes dramatically.
It does mean that, if the deal goes through, Levy may have to be more creative with how it uses Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the long term.