The Football Association (FA) could reacquire Wembley Stadium for as little as £100m if its prospective new owner fails to maintain its elite status, it has emerged hours before a £600m takeover bid could be derailed.
Sky News has learnt that the £100m buyback clause, which would be triggered if Wembley was downgraded as a host venue by UEFA, European football’s governing body, is part of a wide-ranging agreement struck between the FA and Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars American football team.
The buyback clause is aimed at helping to persuade sceptics on the FA’s board about the merits of a sale, with a full FA board meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday.
Senior insiders are sceptical that the amateur game’s board representatives will agree to the sale, which would see hundreds of millions of pounds spent on grassroots football facilities across England.
The potential deal has divided some of the sport’s key stakeholders, with traditionalists decrying the possibility of a sale; others have welcomed the gigantic windfall which could emerge in the wake of England’s best World Cup performance since 1996.
Mr Khan is understood to have agreed to a series of concessions aimed at winning support for his purchase of the world’s most iconic sporting arena.
The Financial Times reported on Thursday that the outline terms of a deal also included a profit-share arrangement if Mr Khan sold Wembley on for a profit.
However, the deal would not include a windfall for the FA from any uplift in the value of Mr Khan’s NFL franchise, which is said to have been discussed at an earlier stage of the negotiations.
Other conditions attached to the deal, according to the FT, would see the FA: continuing to have representation on the stadium’s board; having a veto over sponsorship of Wembley; holding step-in rights to take back operational control if it is not adhering to certain standards under Mr Khan’s ownership; preventing the new owner from being able to use the stadium as collateral for a loan; and a guaranteed staging agreement ensuring that major domestic and international matches are played there.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England and the Greater London Authority are all said to have signalled their support for a sale on the proposed terms.
Greg Clarke, the FA chairman, and Martin Glenn, the governing body’s chief executive, are also endorsing the deal.
One source close to the talks said that if a minority of FA board members representing the amateur game effectively vetoed the deal, it could spark a broader crisis over the governance of the sport.
“These are the guys who stand to benefit most from a sale,” the source said.
“They will never have an opportunity of this kind again to generate a windfall to invest in English football, and if they block it, it would be disastrous.”
The FA is taking advice on the deal from Rothschild, while Mr Khan is being advised by Centerview Partners.