Before Jacksonville Jaguars’ fans decide their beloved franchise is packing its bags and moving to London, let’s all take a moment to breathe. Team owner Shad Khan put in a bid to purchase Wembley Stadium, the Jaguars announced on Thursday. Khan, who bought the team from Wayne Weaver in 2011, insists the franchise isn’t going anywhere and the plan for stadium and city improvements will continue as planned.
“Thursday’s breaking news that Jaguars owner Shad Khan has offered to purchase London’s Wembley Stadium for a reported £500 million is part of that equation,” writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “The team made it clear during its annual state of the franchise last week that its grip on the London market is being threatened by other NFL teams’ interest in playing there.”
London has been associated with the Jaguars and a potential move since the team signed a deal with the NFL to host one home game a year through the 2020 season. Losing year after year put the Jaguars on the “hot seat” as rumors persisted through the national media that Shad Khan would eventually move the team across the pond.
Khan issued a statement on Thursday reiterating there is no chance of the team leaving the city of Jacksonville.
“It [the purchase of Wembley] 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 the statement.
Starting in the 2007 season, the National Football League (NFL) has hosted regular season American football games outside the United States every year. Collectively officially known through 2016 as the NFL International Series, since 2017 the series has two sub-series: the NFL London Games in London, which has been in place since 2007, and the NFL Mexico Game in Mexico City, which began in 2016 with a predecessor game in 2005.
Initially, all games in the International Series were held in London. Wembley Stadium was the exclusive home stadium for International Series games from 2007 to 2015 and will continue to host NFL games through at least 2020; beginning in 2016, the series began expanding to more stadiums, first to Twickenham Stadium, London (2016–2017) and to Estadio Azteca, Mexico City (2016–2021) and eventually to Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium at Northumberland Park also in London (2018–2027), with possible future plans to expand the series to Germany and/or Canada.
The agreement with the NFL and the Jaguars has been beneficial for the organization’s financial stability. Shad Khan purchased one of smallest markets in the NFL. The Jaguars have improved their value amongst the NFL franchises since the team started played a home game a season in Wembley Stadium, starting in 2013.
The Jaguars lost their first two contests in London and have since won their last three with a 44-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens last season. This year, the Jaguars face the Philadelphia Eagles as their “home” game.
“Khan’s purchase of Wembley would add significant additional revenue and therefore strengthen the team’s financial footing in Jacksonville,” DiRocco added. “That revenue would include food and beverage sales and suite revenue, for example. Jaguars president Mark Lamping said there are approximately 30 non-NFL games or events held at Wembley and that revenue would help Khan keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville.”
Overall, Lamping said London accounts for 11 percent of the franchise’s local revenue — down from 12 percent in 2016 and 15 percent in 2014. If Shad Khan does purchase the stadium in London, the ability to add revenue from other events means the Jaguars could play a home game each year indefinitely.