LONDON – The international growth continues.
London has been good for the Jaguars, as owner Shad Khan sees it. As importantly, it has been positive in significant ways for the city of Jacksonville. That has been true for more than a decade and the hope is it will continue to be true.
"It's a win-win-win," Khan said. "We'd love to see it go forward."
Khan and Jaguars President Mark Lamping spoke with Jaguars Media at the Dorchester London Saturday morning. The Jaguars when they play the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Sunday will become the first NFL team to play back-to-back regular-season games in London.
The Jaguars beat the Atlanta Falcons, 23-7, at Wembley Stadium last Sunday – marking the second time in as many seasons the Jaguars have staged the Wembley game.
"You have close to a hundred people in Jacksonville actively involved in executing the game at Wembley," Lamping said. "Our objective, trying to have Wembley look as close as possible to having it in Jacksonville, I don't think there's any question we achieved that thanks to the great leadership of [Chief Operating Officer] Chad Johnson, others throughout the organization and our great partners at Wembley Stadium."
Khan called the Jaguars-Falcons game a "real Jaguars game-day experience."
"It's moved the needle, gradually all along," Khan said. "Our colors are there; the energy in the crowd is there. The No. 1 jersey I saw was [Jaguars quarterback] Trevor [Lawrence]. Definitely, it compares very favorably with Jacksonville."
Khan and Lamping discussed multiple topics Saturday morning, including the Jaguars' 2023 season to date – "they never quit," Khan said, "I think that's the most important thing" – and negotiations with the City of Jacksonville for the proposed Stadium of the Future.
"I feel good; I'm optimistic," Khan said of the stadium talks, adding that he saw Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan before the Jaguars-Falcons game at Wembley. "She's put together a great team and I'm optimistic we'll have a resolution that works for all."
Khan added of Deegan, who took office July 1, "She's obviously committed to the city and obviously we're vested in the city. I got to know her before her election and we're really happy for her and the city."
The Jaguars' game against the Bills Sunday is their 11th in London, having played a home game at Wembley annually from 2013-2019, in 2022 and again this past Sunday. They played as the home team at Tottenham in 2021. Their contract to play a home game at Wembley runs through 2024.
"They've been great," Khan said. "Obviously, there is another party to this agreement, the NFL, but I'm optimistic. Hopefully we'll get this thing renewed. It's been great for the city of Jacksonville. It's great for the players. It's been great for us."
The Jaguars were the first NFL team to establish an international presence when they began playing annually at Wembley in '13. The league since then has expanded internationally, with three games this season in London and two in Frankfurt, Germany. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday said the league could play in another international location as early as 2024.
"I think a big, big difference here: We are vested in London," Khan said. "We have a full-time staff here and frankly, no one's worked the territory or invested not only time, money, energy, but heart and soul like we have. It has been great for the city of Jacksonville and hopefully it continues."
Lamping said while the London game builds the Jaguars' international brand, "the biggest accomplishment is what it's done for the City of Jacksonville."
"You measure that in terms of jobs that are brought back to Jacksonville and real discussions now about Jacksonville, companies that now have a presence in London and in Jacksonville," Lamping said, with Khan adding: "Our goal was really to serve the city and what's good for the city is good for the Jaguars. I think we've accomplished that handily. The benefit has been immense."
Khan and Lamping each said they are pleased with early progress in Stadium of the Future in Jacksonville talks. Lamping said he remains optimistic an agreement can be reached to allow construction to begin following the 2024 season.
"I don't think anything has really changed on that front," Lamping said. "The city has put together a good team. We've been living this for a lot of years. We're ready to go and we have to give them time to get up to speed. They're doing that now. Both parties are committed to doing everything they can to get it done. There are realities of the calendar and if you miss the reality of the calendar, costs inevitably go up and nobody wants that."
Added Lamping, "We have a common goal, which is always a good place to start any negotiations. We're obviously going to have to be as creative as we all collectively can to get to a place that works for the city, works for the Jaguars and works for our fans, but also so we'll get the support of 75 percent of NFL owners, which is a key consideration."
Lamping said the team continues to explore the potential construction schedule to "see if there's anything we can do to maybe go from playing away for two years to just one year." Original projections were that the team could play at an alternate site two seasons if renovations were non-stop compared to the costlier option of renovations over four seasons with construction pausing to allow play in the stadium during the season.
"We don't have that solved yet," Lamping said. "But we're going to continue to do everything we possibly can to still get the stadium done on time and have it be the least disruptive as possible as far as our games in Jacksonville are concerned."
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