The biggest English football news of the day is no doubt the sudden collapse of the FA’s proposed deal to sell Wembley Stadium to Fulham owner Shahid Khan. Numerous reports, including the BBC, are reporting that Khan, who also owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has withdrawn his bid for England’s national stadium, and that Wembley will, at least for now, remain under the ownership of the Football Association.
The FA had been considering selling off Wembley to private owners as they were trying to get out of the administration of the stadium, and were hoping to funnel proceeds from the sale into grassroots football development efforts in the lower leagues. Khan repeatedly touted the “grassroots improvement angle,” but according to the BBC, was also unapologetic about wanting to eventually relocate the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars to London, making them the first overseas-based NFL franchise in the league’s history.
The FA released a statement about Khan’s withdrawal, and shortly afterwards Khan released a statement of his own, saying that there was resistance to the sale and implying that the proposal may not have passed.
“I’ve been clear publicly as well as in my correspondence with the FA Council that it would require a proper partnership, with the full and enthusiastic commitment of all involved, to maximise the benefits to the FA and game of football by way of 100 per cent private ownership of Wembley Stadium.
”At this moment, following last week’s FA Council hearing, it appears there is no definitive mandate to sell Wembley and my current proposal, subsequently, would earn the backing of only a slim majority of the FA Council, well short of the conclusive margin that the FA Chairman has required.
“The intent of my efforts was, and is, to do right by everyone in a manner that strengthens the English game and brings people together, not divides them.
”Unfortunately, given where we are today, I’ve concluded that the outcome of a vote next week would be far from sufficient in expressing the broad support favoured by the FA Chairman to sell Wembley Stadium.
”Until a time when it is evident there is an unmistakable directive from the FA to explore and close a sale, I am respectfully withdrawing my offer to purchase Wembley Stadium.
”I cannot rule out revisiting the opportunity at another time when perhaps the Football Association family is unified in its views on the opportunity.”
It’s not hard to look at this decision as a win for Tottenham Hotspur and chairman Daniel Levy. The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is designed specifically to host NFL games with a state-of-the-art retractable football pitch. Spurs and the NFL have also entered into an agreement whereby at least one NFL game will be played at Tottenham’s stadium for the next decade.
This partnership with the NFL also sets the stage for Tottenham’s stadium to potentially be the long term home for a future London-based NFL franchise, though Khan’s plans to relocate the Jaguars to Wembley might have thrown a wrench into the works. Levy had recently said, in minutes of a meeting with the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, that he opposed the sale of Wembley to Khan, but did not specify his reason for the opposition. It’s probably not difficult to intuit his reasons, though — Levy clearly views a partnership with the NFL, which is becoming more and more popular in the UK, as critical to the long-term growth of Tottenham as a brand and as a club.
There are good reasons to support the sale of Wembley, and equally good reasons to oppose them. In the end, it seems as though the biggest winner of this deal falling apart might just be Tottenham Hotspur.