This morning, news broke that Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC owner Shahid Kahn was in line to buy legendary Wembley Stadium for over $700 million. The news came about as a shock but it really wasn’t.
While the FA, England’s soccer organization, owned the stadium, Kahn’s Jaguars had been playing at least one football game per year. And since Fulham also plays in London, this sale affects them too.
While much has been left to speculation right now, Shahid Kahn buying Wembley will send shockwaves on both sides of the Atlantic.
What happens to Fulham FC?
The easiest part to figure out has to do with Fulham FC, Kahn’s soccer team. Fulham is playing in the Championship and is a point behind Cardiff City for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Whether or not Fulham promotes, the team will likely move to Wembley once this deal goes through.
Fulham currently plays in Craven Cottage and it has the reputation of being majestic and rustic. Originally built in 1780 along the River Thames, it was transformed into a stadium in 1896 with periodic upgrades. To survive in the Premier League, Fulham will need to leave that behind and move into the modern digs of Wembley. It might cause a worse environment at Fulham games but it’s tough to remain in the Premier League with just a 30,000 seat stadium where an 86,000 seat stadium that was built 11 years ago is sitting there.
What happens to the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Don’t immediately assume that they will become the “London Jaguars,” but it seems like a major step was taken in moving them to London. While Kahn will remain in Jacksonville for the time being, things may get tenuous when the moment comes that he will want a new stadium in Jacksonville.
Think about it. Kahn just bought a stadium for $700 million. How is that going to look for lawmakers when he comes to them wanting taxpayer money to build a stadium? Maybe Kahn would be willing to pay out of pocket for a new stadium but owning another stadium elsewhere certainly gives Kahn leverage to get the money to build a stadium in Jacksonville or else move the team to London. And while it’s getting tougher and tougher for lawmakers to convince their constituents giving billionaires taxpayer money was the right move, they now have to do it knowing the same guy spent $700 million on another stadium.
Considering the NFL wants to expand to England and is looking at having more and more games, it’s not impossible for Kahn to get the votes required to move the team. The money would be too good to pass up.
What happens to Tottenham Hotspur?
Yes, Tottenham factors into this. The London team is currently residing in Wembley Stadium but that’s not what I mean. While in Wembley, Tottenham is building a new stadium on the site of White Hart Lane. One of the features of their stadium is a retractable field that will allow the soccer team to play on natural grass and have artificial turf because they wanted to host NFL games.
Now that Kahn is bound to buy Wembley, he’s probably going to want any NFL game played in London to be played there instead of at the White Hart Lane site. Tottenham will host their first game this fall with the Raiders/Seahawks on October 14 but it may be a matter of time before they won’t be hosting any more NFL games.
[Photo: Getty Images]