In the view of Shad Khan, there is no negative.
A higher international profile.
A global fan base.
An opportunity for Jacksonville and its business community to grow.
Khan, the Jaguars’ owner, said for all those reasons and more the announcement on Tuesday afternoon that the Jaguars will play a regular-season game in London’s Wembley Stadium each of the next four seasons is as positive a thing as can be imagined.
“Very rarely do you see something in life where it’s a win-win for everybody,” Khan told reporters minutes after and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement at a press conference at the University Club in downtown Jacksonville.
In Khan’s view, this idea was one of those rarities.
“It seems like you’re growing the pie for everybody,” Khan said. “That’s what is a wonderful and unique thing about this.”
That was the view of the others who spoke at a press conference that featured not only Goodell and Khan, but Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, EverBank Chief Executive Officer Rob Clements and Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Chairman Tom Van Berkel.
Brown said the Jaguars and the London game had his “100 percent backing.”
Brown, Van Berkel and Clements each closed various parts of their comments with the Jaguars’ motto for 2012, “All In.” Carroll called it a “historic day” for Jacksonville.
“What a great day for Jacksonville,” Van Berkel said. “We realize the great benefits that have carried to this community. Now, this is another great day for Jacksonville and an opportunity to have another game-changer to take us to the next level.”
Khan introduced Goodell at the press conference and welcomed Goodell to “my home, Jacksonville.” Khan also said for the Jaguars to be strong, Jacksonville needed to be strong.
“With this, hopefully we’ll be doing our part to have a stronger National Football League,” Khan said.
The Jaguars have committed to playing a regular-season game in Wembley Stadium in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, and while division games rarely have been played in London, Goodell said there is no rule against division games. Each game will be what would have been a Jaguars home game.
Khan, who said at this point there are no plans to open an office in London, said he doesn’t know how giving up a home game at EverBank Field each season will affect the Jaguars’ financially, but he and President Mark Lamping said playing in London wasn’t about short-term finances.
“We’re confident we’ll do well economically, but beyond that, we’re trying to build a brand,” Lamping said, adding that in time it will be viewed as a “game-changer not only for the Jaguars, but the city of Jacksonville.”
“We’re doing it for more important reasons,” Khan said. “The math will shake out however it shakes out. That’s secondary at this point.”
What’s primary, Khan said, is trying to build not only the Jaguars’ brand nationally and internationally, but building Jacksonville as an international business community.
“We’re a well-kept secret, and I think after today that’s not quite going to be the case,” Khan said. “We’re serious about marketing Jacksonville as a world-class leisure destination and more importantly as a place to grow business, a great place to raise a family and to have the full power of the NFL to leverage this area.
“I want to make it clear we are the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are the heart of our effort and moving forward, we all are going to be uplifted.”
Goodell said it was a case of the league’s vision for expanding to an international market matching with Khan’s vision of expanding the Jaguars’ brand.
“One of the things that really attracted us to this marriage is that there is a tremendous passion and vision from Shad Khan in how he wants to take his team and make it a global brand,” Goodell said. “He wants to help this community become more of a global city and help us make the NFL more of a global sport. That’s a great opportunity for all of us.”
Goodell said while the NFL has played a game in Wembley each season since 2007, the league believes there may be benefit to having a team regularly play there.
“By having the same team consistently, they have a connection,” Goodell said. “Then, they follow that team during the regular season. You would see whether it had an impact.”
Goodell, who several years ago discussed the challenges facing the Jacksonville market, said the reality is many NFL communities are now being challenged to find ways to fill stadiums.
“We’re in a difficult environment,” Goodell said. “We’ve got a great experience on television. We’re being challenged to make sure people come to our stadiums. We have to make that experience better.”
Goodell said he met with members of the Jaguars’ front office Tuesday. “They’re doing some very exciting things here to make sure they’re addressing that issue,” Goodell said.
Khan, speaking with reporters after the press conference, said while it might take time to continue building the jaguars’ brand, he said, “it’s something you have to try and something you must do.”
“I think it will make a huge difference in four years,” Khan said. “Is the job done (then)? We’ll know. Probably not, and hopefully we’ll continue. I’m one of those people who would much rather try than not try at all.”
Khan also said his idea of a successful return from a business standpoint would be if someone were to build a container port in Jacksonville, expand a business to the city, or become more aware of it as a vacation destination. All, he said, would indicate a raised profile, not just for the city, but for the franchise as well.
“This is one of those instances where it’s the right decision for many, many reasons,” he said. “Most importantly, I think the upside here is for Jacksonville and the Jaguars. We have a chance to develop fans outside and develop a bigger fan base.
“I see no downside for anybody, and a huge upside for everybody.”