Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan yesterday announced that the team will “play a game in London every year for at least four years, starting in 2013,” according to Vito Stellino of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Goodell said that the league “decided to follow a different strategy by having one team play multiple games in London, and the Jaguars volunteered to become that team.” Goodell said, “We believe the fans over there would like to follow a specific team. We believe that four years is an opportunity to test that theory, for the television partners that we have in the UK to put more of a focus on the Jaguars both in the season and outside the season, and to really see does this theory take hold and does it make sense, not only for the league and for our fans, but also the team.” Jaguars President Mark Lamping said this announcement will be viewed in the future as “a game changer, not only for the Jaguars, but for the city of Jacksonville.” Lamping said, “This isn’t a short-term strategy, and that’s why it’s for four years. We think Jacksonville as a community can make a fuller commitment and leverage the opportunity in London.” Khan “started talking about raising the profile of the Jaguars and the city when it was announced in November that he was buying the team.” Khan “didn’t rule out the chance the Jaguars could play games in London for more than four years” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/22). In L.A., Sam Farmer noted with the Jaguars committing to games in London they are now “out of the mix to relocate” to L.A. But they were “a longshot to fill the L.A. vacancy, anyway” (LATIMES.com, 8/21).
A PLAY FOR POPULARITY: The AP’s Mark Long noted the Jaguars by all accounts are “the NFL's least popular team,” as they rank “at or near the bottom of the league in website hits as well as Twitter and Facebook interactions.” Reaction to the London deal “was mixed among the fan base.” But Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis said, "It's just good for the Jaguar brand. It's exciting to go over there and put ourselves on the map worldwide” (AP, 8/21). The TIMES-UNION’s Stellino notes the Jaguars players “were supportive of the idea of playing a game in London.” Jaguars K Josh Scobee said, “This would give us some popularity overseas and get us some new fans.” Still, Scobee said that he “understands season-ticket holders might be upset about losing one home game a year” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/22).
YES WE KHAN: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes if there is “one thing we've learned about Khan in his eight months of running the Jaguars, he's not afraid to shake things up or pursue a new adventure.” Frenette: “Providing, of course, there's money to be gained, albeit at the risk of surrendering a competitive advantage.” Khan has “spared no expense in trying to improve the Jaguars in all facets of their operation.” Some will “rightfully question whether sacrificing a home game for international exposure puts the team at a competitive disadvantage.” But for the city, there is “no question what the Jaguars are doing will expand its business profile.” Still, it will be “interesting to see what taking a team from the banks of the St. Johns River to the River Thames brings to the Jaguars.” It “didn't seem to do much for the Dolphins or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both of whom are struggling at the box office and on the field.” But Khan “doesn't worry about that,” as he “sees international dollar signs above anything else” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/22). Meanwhile, Khan has a “60 Minutes” TV crew following him for a segment “expected to air sometime this fall” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 8/22).
IS LONDON CALLING FOR MORE? Goodell said he was unsure about the “time frame” for placing an NFL franchise in London, but said, "I do know that every time we've taken another step in exposing our game to a global audience, they've wanted more." Goodell: "We went from preseason games, because they wanted to see competitive games with the best players, to regular-season games. Now they want more regular-season games. We'll likely take the next step of going from one game a year to two games a year and maybe even beyond that.” He said the league has not “made a final decision" on whether to continue to only play international games in London and not in other global cities, “but part of our theory here is that London could someday be a host for an NFL franchise." Goodell: "Playing in a broader area would expose more people to the game of football but at the end of the day we want to really test the London market and continue to see whether we can grow the game there” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 8/21). Meanwhile, NBCSPORTS.com’s Michael David Smith noted Jacksonville “won’t be the only NFL city losing one of its home games” to the U.K. In the Jaguars’ announcement yesterday, the team confirmed that the league “is working to add a second game in the U.K. next year.” There is “no word yet on whether that game will also be at Wembley or at another venue in the U.K., and there’s no word on which team will sacrifice one of its home games to travel overseas” (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/21).