We haven’t heard much about “the Jaguars are moving” story in the past couple of years. Los Angeles has two teams and a multi-billion dollar stadium being built. But there’s a new, albeit faint drumbeat about more games in London and fewer games in Jacksonville. By now you’ve probably heard what NBC’s Peter King said a couple weeks ago regarding the Jaguars potentially playing four games in London beginning in 2022.
It would be pretty easy for the Jaguars to play more games overseas. But I don’t think fans will accept giving up any more home games here at home.
So that’s not going to happen.
Next year, I think the Jaguars will be playing two games in London, one as the home team and one as the visitor either the week before or the week after.
I’ve said all along the Jaguars would play more than one game overseas. And not all in London. Shad Khan has said he would like to have a game in Germany or in Spain at some point and I think it’s possible by 2022 the Jaguars would have already played in one of those places.
And they’ll play at Wembley whenever they play in England even though the league has a deal to play two games at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium at White Hart Lane. Shad is buying the national stadium outside of London and his team will always play there. Which means home or away, it’s a moneymaker for the local owner.
If the NFL really wants the Jaguars to have more of a presence in London how about one game as the home team, and a few more as the visitor all played over a three or four-week stay? While that means four games in London, it wouldn’t mean fewer games in Jacksonville.
I’ve been to every game the Jaguars have played in London and you wouldn’t know who was there as the home team or the away team. As the Jaguars have settled in on a schedule and gotten more comfortable with the routine, they’ve taken advantage of being the “home” team for the past few years.
Khan wants to have a base in North America to entertain clients and have meetings outside of a work setting. The Jaguars certainly provide that, both at home and when they play on the road in the States. Shad revamped the owners box here in Jacksonville, expanding it and making it pretty special to help showcase his team.
He’s building a new Riverside Stand at Craven Cottage in London, renovating the hospitality area to bring it up to a standard so he can entertain clients from Europe and beyond at Premier League games.
So from his perspective of using the NFL and the EPL as an adjunct to enhance his businesses, the Jaguars in Jacksonville and Fulham in London perfectly fit the bill.
“The fact we are playing one game a year at Wembley now, that we have other commercial interests in London and throughout the UK, has really made us stronger here in Jacksonville,” Jaguars president Mark Lamping recently told The Guardian newspaper in London. “I think most of our fans understand the role London plays,”
When the league wanted to expand the number of games in London, at first they couldn’t find enough owners willing to go. Now there aren’t enough games to accommodate the owners that want to play there.
Shad was way ahead of the curve, as usual, on this one and he’s gotten the other owners excited about taking their team to the UK.
Talk about the Jaguars playing in London, Germany or Spain doesn’t diminish the name “Jacksonville” in front of “Jaguars.” Au contraire, as the French would say, looking at it from the other side of the equation, it makes us the cool kids on the block.
Improvements around the stadium, the continued planning for a “Lot J” entertainment complex, the development of the Shipyards and a high end, world class hotel on the St. Johns river are pretty good indicators that Khan likes it here.
There’s even an idea floated about putting a giant sunshade over the stadium, like an arch a couple of hundred feet wide stretching over the structure from North to South.
“London strategically is really important to us and it’s really important to Jacksonville that the Jaguars don’t lose our position in London,” Lamping said. “Whenever you can include Jacksonville and London in the same sentence, it’s a good thing.”
“London is the NFL’s international primary focus. It’s a market they believe with appropriate amount of development over time could potentially be a city to host a full-time franchise,” he added. “Whether that ultimately accrues to the Jaguars or another team relocating there.”
That’s the first time I’ve heard anybody associated with the organization ever use “Jaguars” and “relocating” in the same sentence.
Of course, that’s exactly what the rest of the league, media and fans think.
Always kind of a mystery, Jacksonville didn’t have a sports identity outside of the city limits before the Jaguars were awarded. The only thing people knew was that it’s where the tolls were on 95 and it smelled badly. Getting rid of the tolls, cleaning up the air and the arrival of the Jaguars changed all that.
But outside of town we’re still the underdog city that’s always losing it’s team to somewhere, and is a complete afterthought among the league’s media.
If all you did in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or even New York was go from the airport to the Hyatt, to the stadium and back to the airport, you wouldn’t know much about any city.
And that’s all they do.
They don’t see the beach, or Mandarin, Ortega or explore the St. Johns. Time constraints and just plain laziness are both to blame. I’ve offered to give tours to the guys I know, but have gotten no takers.
All I ever heard was, “You’re not getting a team!” when I’d show up at the owner’s meetings with the Jacksonville contingent. But we partnered with Wayne Weaver, did everything right, and were awarded the 30th NFL franchise.
Thanks to Weaver, who was popular among the ownership as a prospective fraternity brother (and that’s what the owners group is) and Roger Goodell, who was the city’s biggest patron inside the league office, the city that couldn’t, did.
And that didn’t sit well with anybody else. Baltimore, Memphis and St. Louis, where Weaver had a history, couldn’t believe it. And Charlotte did their usual look down their nose at us.
“Don’t worry Charlotte, you’re not Jacksonville” said one columnist in the self-proclaimed “Queen City” the day after we got the team. Charlotte was awarded the 29th franchise a month earlier and couldn’t imagine being put in the same category as swampy tackle box Jacksonville.
Of course Charlotte is so snotty they can’t even call their downtown “Downtown.” They have to call it “Uptown.” And they’re right, they’re not Jacksonville. No beach, hot as blazes in the summer and cold as you-know-what in the winter.
And the fact that we like it here just plain makes people from elsewhere angry. I was raised in Baltimore and my parents always say the attitude in Jacksonville reminds them of “Charm City.”
In Baltimore they don’t want to be D.C. or Philly or certainly not New York. In Jacksonville we don’t want to be Atlanta, or Miami or Tampa and certainly not Orlando.
We’re perfectly comfortable in our own skin. Winning season or losing season, we’re pretty happy with our team, who we are, our friends and the lifestyle.
Everybody can come visit and we’ll even show them around. And they can even move here. Just don’t tell us how fabulous everywhere else is now.
We’re not listening.