JACKSONVILLE – As Jaguars Owner Shad Khan saw it, the situation had to be right.
Khan, speaking at a press conference Friday welcoming officials from the Fulham Football Club to Jacksonville, said when deciding to purchase the English Premier League team last week, many factors were taken into consideration.
Timing. Location. History. As importantly, Khan said it had to fit with the vision for the Jaguars, something he said Friday afternoon he believes is very much the case.
“It had to make sense,” Khan said Friday at an event attended by Jaguars President Mark Lamping, Fulham CEO Alistair Mackintosh, Fulham Manager Martin Jol, Fulham Captain Brede Hangeland, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.
“It has to be the right team . . . Fulham is absolutely perfect for us for a number of different reasons.”
Jaguars President Mark Lamping, who will serve as a director with Fulham, said the Jaguars and Fulham will operate independently, but will share “strengths and best practices where appropriate.”
“In short, it’s business as usual here at EverBank as well as at Southwest London and Craven Cottage,” Lamping said.
Khan called it a virtual certainty that Fulham will be playing “friendlies” – exhibition matches – in EverBank, likely before the 2014 season. That would coincide with the projected rollout date for $63 million of proposed, state-of-the-art improvements to EverBank.
“Absolutely we want to do that,” Khan said, adding that the deal to purchase Fulham came together very quickly. “What a statement it would be to the global audience. It’s going to show Jacksonville at its finest.”
Khan also said Friday that a major appeal of Fulham was its location in London, a city crucial to the Jaguars because of plans to play a regular-season game there for the next four seasons.
“For us to have synergies, it has to be a London team,” Khan said, adding, “Synergy obviously is vital. Fulham is the right club for us. We didn’t go over there, saying let’s just buy a club.’ It had to have certain attributes and as we went through it, that (Fulham) was it. They were the only one.”
Khan said he also was drawn to Fulham’s history, its location within London, its connections to the United States, as well as its reputation as a fan-friendly franchise.
“There are football clubs overseas that aren’t that fan-friendly,” Khan said. “It (Fulham) has a great feeling, a great environment.”
Also on Friday:
*Khan declined to predict a 2013 record for the Jaguars, who open training camp next Friday, but said he is confident of the direction on the field under Bradley and Caldwell. “I absolutely think Dave and Gus are the two right guys for us,” Khan said. “Our goal is to start building a sustainable team. Our goal is to start moving in that direction – simple as that.”
*Khan said he is still considering the issue of the Michael Jackson statue outside Fulham’s Craven Cottage Stadium. Former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed had the statue built following Jackson’s death in 2009. Many Fulham fans dislike the statute, but at a news conference announcing the sale of the team this past weekend, Al Fayed said the statue would remain. “You have to take a deep breath and reflect,” Khan said. “I’m in a Lotus pose and doing my yoga meditation.” Khan added, “I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal – that big a deal to the fans and frankly, that big a deal to the chairman (Al Fayed).”
*Khan addressed his potential interest in the Shipyards project near EverBank Field. “We have those discussions going,” he said. “That’s been a project that has been around a long time. With all candor, I think nobody stepped up. I offered that to the mayor, ‘Let us have a crack at it.’ I think we’re talking to him and we’re going to do it to serve Jacksonville.
*Khan said he plans to attend every Jaguars home and away game this season.