Shahid Khan withdraws offer to purchase Wembley from English FA
Shahid Khan has withdrawn an offer to purchase Wembley Stadium in London from the Football Association of England, the organisation said on Wednesday.
Khan, the owner of Premier League club Fulham and the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, had reportedly proposed paying £600 million ($790 million) for the venue, which FA chief executive Martin Glenn said was a "very credible offer."
But a number of concerns cast a shadow over Khan's proposal, including those raised by former Fulham assistant director of football operations Craig Kline regarding "systematic corruption" related to moving both Fulham and the Jaguars to the venue.
"At a recent meeting with Mr. Khan, he expressed to us that, without stronger support from within the game, his offer is being seen as more divisive than it was anticipated to be and has decided to withdraw his proposal," Glenn said in a statement.
"Wembley Stadium is an iconic venue that is revered around world and it will continue to thrive under the ownership and direction of The FA."
The FA decided last week that it would need to convene a special board meeting, scheduled for Oct. 24, to deliberate and potentially vote on the sale of Wembley.
Khan acknowledged the divisive response to his bid in his own statement and said he would give thought to making another bid in the future.
"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 [the] game of football by way of 100 percent private ownership of Wembley Stadium," Khan said.
"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 FA intended to use the funds raised from the sale of the stadium, which was redeveloped and reopened in 2007, to support the sport at the grassroots level, developing facilities around the country.
But a public consultation of 22,500 people, including club and league officials, referees, adult and youth players, coaches, volunteers and members of the general public, did not believe that selling the stadium would be in the organisation's best interests, according to a study reviewed last week by the Associated Press.
"There has been much deliberation on both sides of this debate and it has undoubtedly raised awareness of the issue that community football facilities in England need significant investment," Glenn said.
Khan hoped to complete the purchase within three months of making the offer in April and insisted English football's marquee events, such as the League Cup and the FA Cup finals, would continue to be held at the stadium, but a number of obstacles prevented his goal from being realised.
Among those were claims that Kline, a longtime friend of Khan's son, Tony, posted on Twitter earlier this month that he was willing to prove to the FA that there was rampant corruption surrounding Khan's offer. Those tweets, directed to the FA and since deleted, included claims Khan intended to demolish Craven Cottage, Fulham's longtime home, and redevelop the site as housing.
The FA said it would investigate the claims, which Khan and Fulham vehemently denied, calling them "ongoing nonsense and bogus."
Khan, who has owned the Jaguars since 2012 and Fulham since 2013, said he trusts the FA will continue to own and operate Wembley in the public's benefit.
"Wembley Stadium is indeed a national treasure, one I would care for and respect for generations," Khan said. "I recognise the passion many people have for Wembley and what it means to English football and will be willing to re-engage with the FA on this matter under proper circumstances."
The withdrawal of Khan's offer looks like good news for Tottenham Hotspur, who have designed their new stadium with NFL in mind and would be able to offer a purpose-built home if a London-based franchise was ever established.
Khan could have provided competition if he had taken control of Wembley, which already hosts NFL games, so there may be some relief at Spurs that the proposed deal has fallen through.