The England Football Association are ready to sell Wembley Stadium to Fulham owner, Shahid Khan for an amount of £1 billion.
The FA Board on Thursday heard proposals from Pakistani-American Khan, who also owns National Football League side Jacksonville Jaguars, paying £600m up front.
There are plans for the iconic ground to continue as the main home for major matches, including England internationals and the FA Cup Final.
It would also see FA offices stay on the Wembley site, which would remain the administrative headquarters of the game in England.
FA bosses plan to plough £500m into grass roots projects around the country, allowing them to pay for hundreds of new 3G and 4G pitches.
Chief executive Martin Glenn believes the extra funds will revolutionise the lowest levels of the game in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
But traditionalists are likely to be scandalised at the FA “selling off the game’s Crown Jewels” after nearly two decades in which Wembley – opened in 2007 – has drained the governing body’s resources.
If the deal is confirmed – likely to take months – the FA would no longer have any involvement in the day to day operation of the stadium, which cost a stunning £757m to build following the old Wembley’s demolition in 2000.
Khan, who according to Forbes is worth an estimated $7.2billion, plans to move his NFL franchise to Wembley and would also take all the revenue from the host of concert and conference events at the stadium.
That would impact on the FA’s ability to host England’s autumn games at Wembley, during the NFL season, meaning the Three Lions would be set to go “on the road” around the country in October and November once the deal is approved.
If the Jaguars do move, the franchise would become the first outside the USA, but will cause anger from traditionalists, although the FA has only owned the site since 1999 and for 19 of the 95 years Wembley has existed.
Glenn and the FA will pledge to ring-fence half of the estimated revenues – £500m – into an endowment fund specifically for future grass roots projects, allowing the body to prioritise its focus on improving the game at all levels.
The FA believes the English game as a whole would gain more from that investment than by keeping hold of the bricks and mortar of the stadium.
It is understood the FA would still receive the “Club Wembley” revenues from a fixed number of event dates, guaranteeing future funds in addition to the initial lump sum.
Khan is happy to provide guarantees over access to the venue outside the NFL window and is understood to have agreed the ground will still be known as “Wembley Stadium”.
The 67-year-old, who was born in Lahore and works out of Florida, is keen to keep flagship football events at Wembley.
An FA spokesman said: “We can confirm the FA Board has received an offer for Wembley from Shahid Khan.”
If the deal does go through, it will have no impact on the 2020 European Championship, in which seven games, including both semi-finals and the final, have been scheduled for Wembley.
Khan has no plans to move Fulham to the stadium and is currently engaged in a rebuilding project at Craven Cottage.
Privately, senior FA figures feel the deal is one they cannot turn down because of the positive knock-on effects to the English game as a whole.
It will also see an end to the time-consuming debates about the stadium which have caused serious issues over the past 19 years.
Today was the first time the details have been presented to the Board although Glenn and Khan have been in contact for some time to fine-tune the potential agreement.
The FA expects that concerns will be raised and the scale of the deal ensures there must be due diligence and legal issues overcome before any agreement is confirmed.
But there is expectation that the positives will be seen to outweigh the negatives to such an extent that opposition within the FA will swiftly evaporate and Khan could be the new Wembley owner before the end of the year.
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