FA Receives £950m Offer for Wembley Stadium
FA Receives £950m Offer for Wembley Stadium
The Football Association has announced it is considering an offer to sell landmark British football site Wembley Stadium to a private investor, in order to put proceeds towards addressing a “national [sports] facilities deficit.”
Pakistani-American sports mogul Shahid Khan is offering almost £950m for the 90,000-capacity stadium, which hosts major English football and rugby championships.
The amount comprises a lump sum of £600m for the venue in addition to future revenue rights for England football games, worth approximately £250m-350m.
Khan, who owns both Fulham Football Club and the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, aims to market the iconic sporting venue for both NFL and football matches.
In a letter to FA Council members, chairman Greg Clarke confirmed that the football governing body was discussing the sale opportunity with “senior Government, Sport and Football stakeholders”, adding that they had “agreed unanimously to explore the sale but has not committed to any course of action.”
If the offer is accepted, proceedings could move quickly, with Khan reportedly seeking an eight to twelve-week schedule for completion.
Profits ring-fenced to fund English sports facilities
If a sale were agreed, the proceeds would be held in a trust with governance approved by stakeholders, so as to ring-fence the funds and legally ensure that they are used to build 1,500 new full-size artificial pitches and grassroots facilities across England.
The potential aid of Wembley’s sale to a private investor towards “closing the facilities gap and building community assets up and down England” will be a key draw to the sale for the stadium’s multiple public body stakeholders.
Sport England, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Greater London Authority are all shareholders in the venue, having contributed to its extensive £757m redevelopment in 2007.
Sports England chair Nick Bitel admits that the potential for public investment with sale profits is appealing, saying of the news:
“We need to see the detail on this and how it would benefit grassroots sport, and then we can make a decision.”
The possibility of privatising the site has attracted criticism from some, with former Wembley chairman Ken Bates complaining that the association are “selling our heritage.”
Prospective buyer Khan does however note that the stadium’s privatisation is not a first, saying:
“When England won the World Cup in 1966 it was privately owned. I have a huge sense of responsibility as a guardian of Wembley and it will be safe in my hands.”
The offer under consideration for the site’s sale involves guarantees of extensive future rights for the FA, including multiple protections to secure rights to future use of Wembley for important championship football and rugby games, as well as a covenant to guarantee the retention of the iconic name “Wembley”.
Khan has already stated that he would never change the stadium’s name, adding that Wembley is one of “the biggest brand names on the planet” and it would make no sense to “buy it and then rip it off.”
Khan’s NFL team the Jackson Jaguars have played at Wembley repeatedly in recent years, and it has been reported that the FA secretly agreed in 2015 to grant Khan a preferential option to buy Wembley, should the association ever decide to sell.
Aside from the sale proceeds, there are significant other benefits to a sale for the FA. The FA’s headquarters would still remain at Wembley for the foreseeable future but they would no longer be responsible for the stadium’s £10m annual running costs or the onerous task of future upgrades.
Upgrades and upkeep are among the biggest financial liabilities associated with stadiums, and the FA still have a remaining £142m debt to pay back from the renovations made to Wembley in 2007, with a plan in place to complete repayments by 2024.
Nonetheless, Khan says that further renovations would be a top priority if he acquired the stadium, saying: “There will be some major investments required . . . to upgrade a lot of the amenities, the scoreboard…We have to keep it fresh, to keep it a venue that people will keep coming to.”
Stakeholders involved in the renovation process are still owed a total of £113m, which could be written off if the FA succeeds in gaining their public body investors’ commitment to the grassroots facilities-building initiative.
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