With the Jaguars playing one home game per year for four straight years in London and Commissioner Roger Goodell recently suggesting that number could double, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to come to the conclusion that if/when a team moves to London, the obvious choice will be the Jaguars.
The writing has been spray painted on the wall by a pack of soccer hooligans. The Jags are trying to build a fan base in London. If they do, and if the NFL wants to move a team there, why would it be a team other than the team that has built a fan base?
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has written a fairly lengthy dissertation on the topic of Jackonville to the land of the Hound of the Baskervilles (Google it), explaining that “numerous well-connected NFL people have tabbed as the most likely to land there.”
And that has prompted a delicious slice of passive-aggressive CBS-on-CBS crime, with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports saying this on Twitter: “I know the NFL wants a team in London. But to just automatically assume it will be Jacksonville is wrong.”
Prisco supports his position by pointing to the assorted misconceptions about the franchise’s ability to sell tickets in Jacksonville. Still, any team that builds a fan base in London by playing there on an annual basis becomes the obvious choice to move there.
There’s another possibility with the Jaguars, not mentioned in La Canfora’s piece: A split schedule.
Rumors continue to persist that the Jags could play some games in Jacksonville, and some in London. Under the basic realities of supply and demand, fewer games in Jacksonville would mean more tickets sold per game. (Even though the games haven’t been blacked out in recent years, plenty of premium seats remain routinely available.) And owner Shahid Khan would benefit financially from a two-headed fan base, both in Jacksonville and in England.
A team based in America that plays some of its regular-season home schedule in London helps the NFL with an overlooked but important logistical problem. What happens when a team based in London is hosting playoff games, and the road teams have to travel over to England and back and then (if they win) play again in a week?
Having a team play some home games in the U.S. and some in London allows all postseason games to be played in the place that is much easier for the visiting teams to get to.
So regardless of tickets sales or sellouts or any other factor, if the Jags are going to play on London on a regular basis, of course they’re the most obvious choice to play there even more regularly. Whether that all or only some of their annual schedule remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen whether they can actually build a fan base in London. If they don’t, then there’s no reason to expand their presence. If they do, then there’s no reason not to.