SBJ/February 20-26, 2012/Franchises

Khan targets next gen Jags fans

When SportsBusiness Journal caught up with Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan earlier this month, the gracious Khan talked about how stunned he was by the media attention he has received since being approved as the Jaguars’ owner in mid-December. But he also, in speaking with NFL writer Daniel Kaplan, talked about his hopes for getting rid of the tarps that cover seats at EverBank Field because of poor attendance; his desire to attract a new generation of fans; and his expectation that the Jaguars will be off the NFL’s version of corporate welfare, supplemental revenue sharing.

Have you had any surprises so far?

KHAN: The biggest surprise is the media scrutiny. So, here, you know, [referring to his auto parts company, Flex-N-Gate]: 40 some years, hundreds of millions of parts, 13,000 employees, big employers in 50 communities — no one said, “Hey, let me do an article.” Not one suggestion on how to improve one auto part. And here, it is an absolute tsunami. … Certainly people hang on and they are free to take creative license with whatever you said; that is part of football. … It is a tribute to the game. There has to be a huge amount of desire for the knowledge.

Khan has found a football owner draws more attention than a car-parts magnate.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
You received some criticism for saying true fans are season-ticket holders. Do you have regrets for saying that?


KHAN (chuckling): That comment, kind of humorous, got a laugh [but] was really a tribute to the season fan holders. It is a learning experience to me that maybe it doesn’t translate to Twitter.

Are you planning new marketing and sales initiatives?

KHAN: All of the above. Some of the upper bowl, we have reduced prices. One of the strategic issues with the Jaguars is it is a young team. We don’t have the second-, third-, fourth-generation fans. “I went to a game with my grandfather, and we walked through two feet of snow,” — and things like that. You don’t have any of those connections. This year … if you bring a child to the game, those tickets are half price. In certain sections we are doing that … to really develop the next generation.

Will ticket prices rise or fall?

KHAN: They will come down a little bit.

Has the league been helpful?

KHAN: The league is very helpful. They have benchmarking data, [a] tremendous amount. The sharing among the teams has really amazed me and impressed me. … You saw how the owners, how helpful, how welcoming, how cordial they have been. They are not going to help you for the three hours, nine minutes of the game, but the other 365 days they couldn’t be more helpful. Everyone in the league … has the mind-set that what is good for Jacksonville will eventually be good for them.

Will the Jaguars continue to need supplemental revenue sharing?

KHAN: We are not eligible. I think you are absolutely right that concept is gone. … Pretty much we have to eat what we kill, and I think that is the right approach.

Have you had any committee appointments?

KHAN: No. I have talked to [Commissioner Goodell] and have expressed [interest]. But the most important thing is to contribute. For me at this stage in life, I want to contribute to the league, want to contribute to the Jaguars. … I don’t want be on a committee to be on a committee. … I have gone to some committee meetings as an observer to see what they do.

You expressed some interest about expanding the Jaguars’ brand overseas. Could you explain?

KHAN: Got to go to the lower-hanging fruit. London: There is an ex-pat population; they understand the sport and [have] an interest. Canada would be another one. Germany is another one. People don’t realize how many football fans, NFL fans, are in Germany. Spain is another one; Barcelona is a very sports-centric city. … Especially for teams like Jacksonville, it provides a showcase.

Do you hope to get rid of the tarps that cover some of the stadium seats? (The team covers the seats because it cannot sell them.)

KHAN: Absolutely. To me, every day I look at the tarps it is like underachieving, and I can’t wait to be able to do that.

Do you have plans for the marketing staff?

KHAN: I am currently looking at that. I don’t know. … You have to have things that are prioritized. We had to get a coaching staff. To me, what is important is really some of the basic needs. I listened to the players and what some of their wants are, like a state-of-the-art locker room, and we are going to do that — although, I have been to other locker rooms, and ours is probably middle-of-the-road, but we are making commitments to a lot of those things.

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