Rumors Swirl About Permanent NFL Team in London


Are the London Jaguars closer to becoming a real thing?

That’s the feeling among some in the British media as Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan works to finalize his purchase of Wembley Stadium.

The Jaguars have played one home game in the city every year since the 2013 season. They will return to London in October for a game with the Philadelphia Eagles and have committed to playing one game there every year through 2020.

Will Khan will move the franchise to London permanently once the stadium deal is complete?

The Financial Times, based in London, reported that board members of the Football Association of England will vote Thursday on whether to sell Wembley to Khan for about $790 million.

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If Khan finalizes the purchase of the iconic soccer stadium, England’s FA “will vacate the premises over the autumn months when the Jaguars play NFL games, with Mr. Khan harbouring ambitious plans to bring his US American football franchise to London,” the report said.

The Daily Mail reported Thursday that Khan has ambitious plans for an NFL franchise in London and buying Wembley would “protect the Jags’ position in London.”

But there are numerous barriers to relocating a team overseas, and the biggest one may be other NFL owners.

Relocation requires approval from 75 percent of the 32 owners, and as lucrative as it might be to add the London market, the other NFL owners likely won’t be as keen on heading overseas to play a game as Khan would be.

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Logistics is another factor as teams that play in London usually get a bye week after the game. If the Jags were to play home games very early or very late in the season, that would disrupt the bye schedule, which usually runs from Week 4 to Week 12.

Additionally, the Jags themselves would be at the biggest disadvantage from flying back and forth to the United States multiple times a season.

A divisional game in Houston would be over 9,500 round-trip miles for the Jags. That trip alone is more miles than what four NFL teams will travel during the entire 2018 season.

It seems as though the next step for the NFL’s International Series would be for one team to play two games in London during a single season, and that hasn’t even happened yet. To suggest eight games would be feasible is a bit of a stretch at this point.

One factor that doesn’t come into play regarding a potential Jags relocation is how the fans of Jacksonville would feel with their team leaving.

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Jacksonville has never been among the strongest NFL markets, ranking in the bottom 10 in average home game attendance from 2013 to 2016.

But the play on the field for the Jags improved last year and so did the fans’ support for the team. They are still in the bottom half of average home attendance, but Jacksonville climbed out of the bottom 10 in both the 2017 season and thus far in 2018.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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