Jacksonville Jaguars and Jacksonville city officials say that the team's repeated trips to London are helping ensure that the franchise will remain in Jacksonville going forward, according to The Florida Times-Union.
The Jaguars are playing the Dallas Cowboys in London this Sunday, part of four scheduled trips to the British capital from 2013-16. It was speculated when Jaguars owner Shad Khan agreed to the arrangement in 2012 that it was a sign the franchise might eventually be relocated to London.
Instead, the extra revenue provided from the London games has allowed the Jaguars to remain stable financially, which means the franchise won't have to move over concerns of continued viability in Jacksonville, according to officials.
Jerry Mallot, president of Jax USA Partnership and executive vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce, says Jaguars fans and city leaders are long past any concerns about Khan moving home games to London. It’s now seen as a way to move Jacksonville and the team forward.
“Shad [Khan] has demonstrated very clearly that he has an interest in this community succeeding, as well as the Jaguars,” said Mallot. “He’s a global businessman. He doesn’t think of one city as a playing field. He sees the world as a playing field. It’s very natural for him.
“When things were a little weak [financially] on the homefront, Shad was able to make it better for his investment to play a game in London while he builds the team. I think people have come to understand and trust what Shad is doing. He’s trying to help Jacksonville grow along with the team.”
According to the report, the Jaguars' ticket revenue from London games is double what the organization makes at home games, and the team also receives an undisclosed amount of corporate sponsorship money. The franchise also believes overseas games improves its brand.
Jaguars president Mark Lamping said the extra revenue and the London games in general "[stabilize] a franchise that was unstable a few years ago." The Jaguars have ranked no higher than 20th in the NFL in attendance every season since 2007, which was also the last year Jacksonville made the playoffs.
Last year, a $63 million renovation of home stadium EverBank Field was approved by the city of Jacksonville, with Khan contributing $20 million of his own money. That and the team's increasing revenues have made it so “nobody talks about blackouts or relocation anymore” for the Jaguars, according to Lamping.
The NFL is playing three regular season games in London this season for the first time. It was reported on Sunday that the league plans to play games there in two consecutive weeks next season in order to test what it might be like if a franchise played there permanently.
Jaguars owner Shahid Khan also owns Fulham FC, an English soccer club based in West London.
The Jaguars are 1-8 this season and in last place in the AFC South.
- Ben Estes