The Jacksonville Jaguars contract with the NFL quietly ended this week, with many UK NFL fans wondering if this is the end of an era for the Jags in London.
The Jags have been playing regular season games in the capital since 2013, solidifying a new fan base, and fostering a reputation as the first potential UK franchise.
But then 2020 came along.
Will the Jaguars sign a new contract, or is this the end of the Florida/ UK NFL experiment? Let’s take a look at some of the factors involved in this.
When the NFL first started hosting the Jaguars in London, their team was in a very different state of affairs. The stadium was a mess, the city was reeling from economic hardships, and the fan base was one of the lowest in the league.
Shad Khan injected much needed funds and energy into the franchise, and used international expansion as a way to not only drum up press, but also explore the potential of a European operation.
As the Jaguars continued to play London games, dissension was building at home. The new stadium with its shimmering pools was drawing bigger crowds, and the Jags themselves began to reach the NFL playoffs.
When the team announced that they would be playing two home games in London in 2020, local press and ardent fans rebelled, signalling that they wanted their home team home.
While the London games represented 11% of home ticket revenue, Jacksonville locals lobbied state and city government officials to help out.
They listened too, with plans to revitalise the downtown around the stadium, bringing in over $2 billion in salaries and over 10000 new jobs.
Urban Jacksonville would be a new ‘Shi Tpa Town’, so why would locals want to lose that momentum?
Shad Khan may be the 4th richest NFL owner, 66th richest person in America, but like many over the past few years, he’s taken a hit to his back pocket. He even recently has had to sell his 300 foot yacht the Kismet , which can be yours for a cool $166 million.
With xenophobia rampaging across America, you can see why he might just want to keep his nose down and focus on his franchise during an election year, and Trump-Mania spreading across Florida.
The impending noose of Brexit is threatening to choke out international business opportunities, which has left many multinational companies to adopt a ‘wait and see’ policy when it comes to moving to the UK.
Wait til the dust has settled and see what kind of deals a desperate UK government is willing to offer.
Did you know that there was an a virus epidemic going on? No, it’s true. Although not much in the news, apparently some nasty bug has been disrupting our way of life.
Businesses hate surprises, and Covid 19 is one of the biggest viral-reveals we have had in our lifetime.
Like Brexit, no one wants to make long term plans when infections and rolling shut downs continue to affect and infect our way of life.
Until we have a vaccine or this nasty sucker under control, all UK-US sports matches will be put on hold.
Can you imagine if they had gone ahead with the London games, and had to postpone at the last minute?
It would be a logistical nightmare.
With the NFL and Tottenham stadium agreeing to a 10 year NFL deal, it doesn’t really make sense to negotiate separate matches with Wembley. If the league is all in this together, then maybe spreading out the games and structure doesn’t really fly in the face of the new normal.
The Spurs have spent a lot of time and money on the new stadium, and fan reaction has been wholly behind the new digs in favour of crusty old Wembley.
Tottenham have a massive vested interest in developing and hosting the games there, so the Jags could save a lot of time and money on working with the league as bubbles and lockdowns become part of the new NFL dynamic.
In the end Shad Khan might just want to take some time off and reflect on the London experiment. Covid has provided a timely opportunity to gauge the want of international expansion, with the need for keeping the home fans happy.
We (should) have NFL games in London in 2021, but with the way 2020 has been going, we need to learn to expect the worst.
That’s what Jets fans do.