Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: London announcement

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Jacksonville Jaguars JaxPack members lead the team onto the field against the Indianapolis Colts in an NFL game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Rick Wilson/Jacksonville Jaguars)

JACKSONVILE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton offer three quick thoughts on this week's announcement that the Jaguars will play two home games in London in 2020…

Oehser…

1.This truly is about sustainability. Tuesday's news that the Jaguars will play two home games at Wembley Stadium in London in 2020 understandably upset many fans, and understandably sparked many to question Owner Shad Khan's motivations. Know this: the sole reason for the action is to give the Jaguars a chance to be competitive – and sustainable – in the long run in Jacksonville. While many fans roll their eyes when Khan or Jaguars President Mark Lamping discuss "viability" and local revenue, the concepts are very real – and important – in the NFL. A team's local-revenue equation represents the franchise's financial health – and by extension, it represents a team's ability to have a chance to remain competitive in the long term. Khan and the Jaguars are pushing to develop Lot J and the Shipyards as ways to develop downtown Jacksonville – and to stop "treading water" and slipping further from the top/middle teams in local revenue. As Lamping put it Tuesday, a second game in London for the short-term will mean a chance to supplement their local revenue while Lot J is under construction. Khan said upon purchasing the team the Jaguars would need to be creative to work in Jacksonville. This is that creativity in action.

2.Events in the West helped force this issue. One thing that became clear Tuesday in the wake of the announcement: recent events involving the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers and Raiders increased the Jaguars' urgency when it comes to local revenue. The Rams and Chargers have played in Los Angeles the past three seasons, but will move into state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium in Inglewood beginning next season. The Raiders are moving this offseason from Oakland to Las Vegas, where they will play in state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium. Lamping on his Tuesday conference call with local media mentioned several times the need to not "tread water" when the rest of the league is continually and creatively increasing local-revenue streams. The NFL in a sense is increasingly in a financial arms race – and the Los Angeles and Las Vegas stadiums are game-changers in that sense. Playing an extra game in London is a way to tread water in that race until Lot J – and perhaps future projects such as the Shipyards – allows the Jaguars to make up some ground.

3.This is NOT about moving the Jaguars. Many observers' first reaction Tuesday was to assume that playing a second London home game means eventually putting a third game in London with an eventual permanent move there. This is anything but the case. Bottom line: the Jaguars wouldn't invest years of planning and millions of dollars on Lot J – tearing down and rebuilding infrastructure, then completely reshaping downtown – to move the franchise. Khan is doing what he's doing – additional games in London, the Lot J projects – to enhance the franchise's long-term future in Jacksonville, not to jeopardize it.

Sexton…

1.Ticket revenue is only part of the puzzle. So-Fi Stadium in Los Angeles opens this fall and Allegiant Airlines Stadium in Las Vegas. Seven billion dollars in new stadiums will require the Rams, Chargers and Raiders to increase prices on everything, which will in turn put downward pressure on the small-market teams who simply can't increase prices enough to keep pace. But tickets are only part of the equation. Signs, luxury suites and big-ticket sponsorship deals continue to push the envelope well beyond what a market like Jacksonville can earn. Consider that So-Fi is paying $30 million annually to name the new stadium and Allegiant $25 million for those rights. The Jaguars deal with TIAA Bank averages $5 million – and that's just for naming rights. United Airlines is paying nearly twice that – $9 million a year – to name a plaza with the main entrance to So-Fi Stadium. You don't even have to be good at math to see the problem.

2.Selling every seat for a winning team wouldn't be enough. Jacksonville isn't Dallas or Atlanta, or Minneapolis or New York – and we never will be. Jacksonville is going to have to take a completely different approach and perhaps even redefine success. Consider that in 2018 the Jaguars sold nearly every ticket they had – and at an increased price – creating the seven best game days they had previously or since. It didn't appreciably move the needle; they're still near the bottom of the league in revenue. That's why Lamping told the Florida Times-Union a few weeks ago that just winning isn't enough. The Jaguars must do something different or eventually they'll fall so far behind they can't possibly catch up.

3.Different means a long-term vision. The bottom line: Khan is doing something that will dramatically reshape downtown, and in the process will create a way for him to drive revenue – which he will use to close the gap with the big market, billion-dollar-stadium franchises. Just so we're clear, he is this city's champion, as he said would be the case when he bought the franchise from Wayne Weaver – who was also this city's champion. Lot J, the Shipyards and all the development those two projects help create will radically transform Jacksonville. When you're eating in one of the restaurants or shopping – or staying in an elegant hotel the night before a home game – maybe you won't even remember your reaction on the day the Jaguars announced they were taking another game to London. Maybe you'll simply be grateful for how far your city has come.

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