Shahid Khan, owner of NFL outfit Jacksonville Jaguars and Premier League side Fulham FC, has decided to withdraw his £600 million offer to purchase the iconic Wembley stadium – The home of English soccer – even has various hurdles coming in the way of the deal was removed in the recent months.
The Pakistan-born business has explained in a statement that his decision to pull out of the sale process came as a result of a lack of support from FA Council members, adding that the affair had become more divisive than he had intentioned.
According to the BBC, the 127-member England’s Football Association (FA) council was expected to vote narrowly against the sale, prompting Khan to withdraw the bid. Some councillors were said to be concerned at the prospect of some of English soccer’s heritage being sold off resulting in insufficient support to Khan’s bid.
Khan said: “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.”
“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.”
The FA, which is responsible for the operation of England’s national stadium, was poised to approve the sale in order to redistribute the funds into grassroots football in accordance in the national governing body’s plans to improve facilities nationwide. The deal with Khan would have been worth almost £900m (€1bn/$1.2bn) in total, including £600m in cash.
The FA Council itself has no power to stop such a deal from being approved. However, the FA’s board – led by chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn – had set out the necessity for a clear mandate from the 127-member council on any decision to sell the stadium to Khan.
The BBC had reported that Khan’s purchase of the stadium might eventually lead to the Jaguars moving to London, while Khan had guaranteed that the venue would remain the home of English soccer and the flagship fixtures that traditionally take place at the 90,000-seater arena.
However, FA chief executive Martin Glenn said on Wednesday: “Earlier this year, The FA received an unsolicited official offer from Shahid Khan to buy Wembley Stadium. It was a very credible offer and was given very serious consideration.”
“Mr Khan believed that his offer to buy Wembley Stadium would release funds to help improve community football facilities in England and that it would be well received by all football stakeholders. 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.”
“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. We will continue to work together to identify new and innovative ways of investing in community football facilities in the future.”
Khan however reiterated that he is ready for future consideration if there is stronger support from across English football’s stakeholders.