Bad football and easy jokes about tarps have made it easy to surmise that Jacksonville’s annual trips to London might be setting the stage for a permanent move.
But city officials are convinced it’s actually helping secure the Jaguars’ future.
According to Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union, local leaders are taking the long view of the team’s annual field trip across the Atlantic, assured that owner Shad Khan doesn’t have carpetbagger motives.
“Shad has demonstrated very clearly that he has an interest in this community succeeding, as well as the Jaguars,” said Jerry Mallot, executive vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce. “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.”
Khan has also sunk $20 million of his own money into improving EverBank Field, but the London games still help the bottom line. The ticket revenues they bring in from Wembley are double a normal Jaguars home game, and now represent 15 percent of the team’s local revenue.
That has helped stabilize things a bit, or at least keep them out of the Los Angeles rumor mill, which centers on the Raiders, Chargers and Rams now.
“Some people view London as a threat to the Jaguars,” Jaguars president Mark Lamping said. “I view it the exact opposite. London is going to be one of the things that protects Jacksonville as an NFL market. It stabilizes a franchise that was unstable a few years ago.”
Lamping added that “nobody talks about blackouts or relocation anymore,” when discussing the team.
“London is worth two home games for us,” said Lamping. “This year, we’re generating as much revenue with nine games [at EverBank] as we did with 10 games two years ago. Plus, we’re adding the benefits of London on top of that.”
Of course, Jaguars fans residing in Jacksonville probably shouldn’t rest completely easily until someone ends up in London that’s not their team.