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Mark Lamping on Wembley: 'Jacksonville drives the Jaguars'


JACKSONVILLE – This is good for Jacksonville and the Jaguars – very good, actually.

That was Jaguars President Mark Lamping's message Thursday when discussing news that Owner Shad Khan is trying to purchase Wembley Stadium in London, and Lamping said something else:

The move absolutely is not a reason for panic or concern for Jaguars fans.

"Jacksonville drives the Jaguars, not London," Lamping said in a conference call Thursday.

Khan, the Jaguars' owner and owner of Fulham Football Club, has extended an offer to The Football Association board of directors to purchase the legendary London venue. Khan confirmed the offer in a statement Thursday.

"For the Jaguars, it would deliver another – and very significant – asset and local revenue source that would further strengthen our investment in London, which as everyone knows is crucial to the Jaguars' continued sustainability in Jacksonville," Khan said in a statement.

Lamping called Thursday "a really good day for us."

"This is significant because it does great things as an extension of what Shad is already doing in London, and it does great things to solidify the Jaguars position here in Jacksonville," he said.

Lamping on Thursday also addressed the Jaguars' long-term future in Jacksonville, emphasizing that the Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville throughout Khan's six years as owner have invested heavily in what is now TIAA Bank Field.

"I would ask fans to judge us on our actions, not on what possibly their fears might be," Lamping said. "Shad does business all over the world. When Shad bought the Four Seasons hotel in Toronto, some people were saying, 'Oh, here it comes … the Jaguars are moving to Toronto.' Obviously nothing like that occurred. Our behavior here in Jacksonville has been the exact opposite of what you would expect [from] an owner if he was planning to leave the market."

Lamping said he understands fans being anxious over Thursday's news "because fans in this market were subjected to a number of years where there were constant threats of the team relocating."

"What I would remind people: all of that predated Shad Khan's purchase of the franchise," Lamping added.

The Jaguars and Jacksonville since Khan purchased the team in January 2012 have executed numerous upgrades to TIAA Bank Field and the surrounding areas, including in-stadium videoboards; renovating the US Assure Clubs, north end zone deck, the team's locker room and training facility; and building Daily's Place Amphitheatre and the Flex Field adjacent to the South End Zone.

The team and city last week during the team's annual State of the Franchise event announced a partnership with international developer Cordish Companies to further develop the areas adjacent to the South end zone and Daily's Place.

"We've made millions and millions of dollars of investments in city-owned facilities, and we just announced a project which could represent as much as $2.5 billion in investment in downtown Jacksonville," Lamping said. "Those plans remain unchanged and, in fact, are probably strengthened as a result of this, and we would ask that fans continue to judge us on our actions and not on what their worst fears might be."

Lamping on Thursday called the Wembley purchase "very consistent" with the team's ongoing strategy, adding that it would strengthen the Jaguars financially by:

*Enhancing the profitability of the Jaguars' annual game at Wembley. The Jaguars have played a home game at Wembley each season since 2013, and the game accounted for 11 percent of the team's local revenue last year. Khan and Lamping long publicly have said the London game is critical to the team's financial and competitive stability. Lamping said the Jaguars previously have not had access to Wembley revenue streams such as food and beverage, and suite revenue. The Jaguars also make what Lamping called a "sizable" rent payment to Wembley to serve as the home team. "Shad owning [Wembley] opens up those revenue streams" and "we no longer will be paying rent, so as far as Jaguars games are concerned … a significant increase in profitability," Lamping said.

*Bringing in revenue from Wembley's non-NFL events, with Lamping saying approximately 28 of 30 events held at Wembley each year are non-NFL events. "The profitability from the remaining 28 will be profit that we will be able to secure, again creating additional revenue streams to strengthen us in Jacksonville," Lamping said.

Lamping said the importance of the London game to the Jaguars' stability in Jacksonville prompted the team to take steps to ensure future games there. He had discussed this importance at last week's State of the Franchise event, noting that "A lot of [NFL] teams see in London what we see in London and we have to protect our position."

"As we went through scenarios that could create issues for us and our ability to capitalize on that in the future, one of the things we thought about was, 'What happens if The FA decides to sell the stadium and if it goes into the hands of someone who may have no interest in the NFL or may not have the scheduling flexibility that The FA currently has with the national team?''' Lamping said. "We always saw that as a risk, and as we began to understand and have really honest and straightforward conversations with The FA regarding what their needs and desires and issues might be, and they began to understand ours, we reached a common ground pretty quickly."

Lamping, who emphasized Thursday that games involving the English National football team – "the national soccer team" – remain the most important events at Wembley each year. He also emphasized during the call that "We view our London game as supplemental to what we do here in Jacksonville" and called London "a strategic part of our plan." He added that any further London presence such as a second game in London in a season would require the approval of NFL owners.

Lamping said approval for the purchase could occur within eight weeks, adding that the purchase price for the Jaguars is around 600 million pounds, with the FA to retain revenue from the stadium's club seats. The club seats revenue will account for about another $300 million, Lamping said.

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