Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Back-Row Billionaire Who Fell in Love with Wembley; Shahid Khan Was Left Mesmerized by the Stadium on His First Trip There, in 2012, When He Experienced a Match as an England Fan

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Back-Row Billionaire Who Fell in Love with Wembley; Shahid Khan Was Left Mesmerized by the Stadium on His First Trip There, in 2012, When He Experienced a Match as an England Fan

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley Chief Football Correspondent EXCLUSIVE

THE back row is not usually for billionaires. Yet a few hours before the Jacksonville Jaguars played their first game at Wembley Stadium, on October 27 2013, Shahid Khan was keen to take it all in.

"I wanted to go up there to sit in the highest seat and see the view," he told Standard Sport. "It was just something I felt I had to do. We took a picture and have been reminiscing about it this week. I felt it was an awe-inspiring place."

That visit came a year after his first match -- England's 5-0 win over San Marino in a World Cup qualifier. Khan was determined to experience that day as a supporter, taking the train from Marylebone to Wembley Central before walking among the gathering crowd to watch Roy Hodgson's side secure a comfortable victory.

"I compared it to going to a college football game in the US in a big stadium -- or a professional stadium -- and found it to be much more convenient than in the United States," said Khan, whose estimated wealth according to Forbes is PS5.2billion, making him the 217th richest person in the world.

"With the football games in the US, there is a lot of tail-gaiting and you park quite far away. If you were just going for the game, this is very good. The public transportation is very good. The stadium itself was big, it was loud and had all the attributes of big American stadiums. But it was a classic stadium. And we took the train home, too."

He could soon sit in any seat he wants. The Football Association are expected to complete a deal worth well in excess of PS500million to give Khan the keys to the home of English football.

A wistful nostalgia has greeted the news in some quarters, chiefly by those with a romanticised view of Brent's bricks and mortar. That sentimental outlook is, of course, based on the associated history, the memories created over time, but the FA and Khan have taken a more calculated view that Wembley needs a cash injection to keep it at the forefront of world stadia.

"The due diligence will show -- and this is another reason why the FA could sell -- that the stadium is ready for some upgrades and investment," he said.

"Some money needs to be spent on it, some which are routine structural issues. Others are upgrading the guest experience, maybe the video boards or the lounges. We will have a plan to upgrade and keep the stadium right at the top of the event experience."

Football -- of the English variety -- remains central to Khan's plans moving forward. There is a sense of inevitability that the NFL will sanction an overseas franchise and Khan's Jaguars would be hot favourites to move to London, were the NFL and their 32 owners in agreement this was the best course of action.

But Khan said: "The FA will continue to get top priority in London. …

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