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Jaguars in London: "The model is working"


LONDON, England – London is crucial. Really, really crucial.

That has been true for the Jaguars since they began playing a home game at Wembley Stadium in 2013, and it remains true as they prepare to play the Buffalo Bills there Sunday.

So, Thursday's news that the Jaguars will continue playing a home game in Wembley until at least 2020? And news that they could continue to do so for five years after that?

As the Jaguars see it, that was very, very good news indeed.

"The model's working, and that's why we were so thrilled to be able to continue it into the future," Jaguars President Mark Lamping said Saturday morning as he and Jaguars Owner Shad Khan met with members of the Jacksonville media on the eighth floor of the Dorchester in Mayfair.

The Jaguars for the past two seasons have played a home game each season at Wembley, and originally that was a four-year plan to run through 2016. They played the San Francisco 49ers there in 2013 and the Dallas Cowboys there in 2014.

The league this week announced it had extended its London agreement to 2020, expanding the number of games it will play there.

The announcement also means the Jaguars will play there once a season through at least 2020.

"We're looking for whatever makes the franchise be stable," Khan said. "Obviously, this is a league where you want to get all the best resources to be competitive. It's a hypercompetitive league. If you're not moving forward you're going to fall behind.

"Money is obviously the medium that gets us the resources we need, whether it's people, facilities or any other."

Lamping and Khan both have said repeatedly in recent years that the London game – which Lamping said accounted for about 15 percent of local revenue last year – is critical to the team's local-revenue equation. In turn, that makes it critical to the franchise's financial stability.

"We actually generate more in London today playing nine games than we did three years ago by playing all of our entire season in Jacksonville," Lamping said. "We're much stronger financially, and if we're strong financially, that means we're on the path to being stable in Jacksonville. It has served us very well."

Added Lamping, "The model's working. It's a question now of ensuring we protect our position within that model. It's no secret there are more and more teams within the NFL that are interested in international. The league itself is more interested in international.

"It's really important for the Jaguars in Jacksonville that we protect our position in London."

While there has been discussion within league circles of a team potentially playing an away game either the week before or after a London home game, Khan called anything beyond the current one-home-game-a-year agreement "a work in progress."

"We have to do the right thing for the Jaguars and we have to do the right thing for the NFL," Khan said. "There might be a time where that would make sense. Right now, I'm gratified we have the NFL's support to be the home team for London and to be playing a game here for the next five years.

"Do we expand on that, build on that? That's very much a work in progress. So, stay tuned."

Khan also said while he believes the NFL should explore games in international cities aside from London, he doesn't envision that for the Jaguars.

"It's not on the Jaguars' radar," Khan said. "I think it should be and is now on the NFL radar. There are fans there. Germany would be a good example; Mexico would be another one. I think the NFL ought to be catering to them.

"I don't think that's what we're looking for. We're committed to Jacksonville and to playing games in London."

Lamping said he believes fans in Jacksonville understand the importance of the London initiative, saying "some of the most sophisticated football fans in the entire country call Northeast Florida their home."

"We have really, really smart football fans," Lamping said. "They understand it. They've gone through a lot of years of speculation about what's going to happen to their NFL team. I know they have been listening and can see that we're under the belief that we're a much stronger NFL team in Jacksonville by playing nine games in Jacksonville and one game in London.

"Almost just as important, the city leaders share that, the Chamber of Commerce shares that and our sponsors share that."

Khan said the London experience thus far has had his desired dual benefit of making the Jaguars more financially viable and strengthening Jacksonville economically. He cited possible international flights to cities such as London from Jacksonville as one of many potential long-term benefits stemming from the team and city developing international relations from and around the game.

"We've benefitted, and Jacksonville has benefitted greatly, frankly, from this London experience," Khan said. "There has been personal growth for a lot of people in Jacksonville that I know; this has opened their eyes.

"There's another world out there. Jacksonville has a huge amount of resources – young, bright people. Nothing happens without economic growth. If we can have that in Jacksonville, the Jaguars and the community are going to do fine."

Also on Saturday:

*Lamping said it remains the Jaguars' wish that the team's 2016 London home game not be against Green Bay. The Packers will be a 2016 home opponent for the Jaguars, but the league has yet to announce the International Series games. "We would hear from the fans if we moved the Packers out of Jacksonville," Lamping said. "There's no question we want the Green Bay game to be played in Jacksonville." …

*The Bills-Jaguars game will be streamed live on Yahoo!, and Khan said he considers participation in the first NFL game to be streamed live in an internet-only event "a historic moment." He added, "I think this will be in a lot of trivia contests 20 years from now. There is going to be more and more – especially sports – other media that's going to go directly from the provider to the consumer. This is absolutely that model. I think it's as revolutionary as cable was 40 years ago." …

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