London (AFP) – Billionaire American businessman Shahid Khan says England “must play” at Wembley or the stadium will lose its soul as he presses his bid to buy the home of the national team.
The flamboyant Khan, who made his fortune in the car parts business, has made an offer to buy the stadium from the Football Association (FA), with reports saying the bid is worth around £1 billion ($1.4 billion).
The 67-year-old owner of NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars and English championship side Fulham, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that it was vital the stadium continued to host the national team’s matches.
“England must play there,” said Pakistan-born Khan, whose Jaguars team have played several times at Wembley. “Otherwise it will be a shell. It would be like an empty suit that doesn’t have soul.”
“We don’t want the FA abandoning us,” added Khan, whose Fulham side are chasing promotion to the Premier League. “Even though the FA captures the revenue from the games, it injects the soul, the passion into the venue that adds value.”
“We want the FA to be there, we want the England football games. Other than that the steel and the concrete is not worth £600 million-plus, plus to us.”
Khan also said that buying Wembley would be beneficial to any potential World Cup bid.
“Our role would be to provide a world-class venue,” he told the BBC website. “(The FA) will have a pool of money of about £600 million that can be invested into the core mission of the FA, which is English football and their ultimate goal of winning a World Cup.
“Wembley is a great stadium and you want to get it configured to hold Super Bowl and World Cup finals.”
Wembley, which has a 90,000-capacity, was reopened in 2007 after the FA’s seven-year, £757 million-rebuild of the home of English football.
The current version of Wembley, famous for its iconic arch, replaced the original venue, which was renowned for its twin towers on one side of the stadium.
Wembley has staged the FA Cup final since the old stadium opened in 1923 and has hosted some of football’s most celebrated matches, including England’s 1966 World Cup final victory and seven European Cup finals.