News that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan had agreed to purchase the storied Wembley Stadium in London, England instantly worried football fans in Jacksonville, who believed the team was headed to Britain.
But then came news that Khan withdrew from the purchase, which allowed many fans to breathe a sign of relief. But some fans say not so fast–the Jags could still eventually leave town, just as they once again started winning games after spending many years in the losers’ column, no less.
According to ESPN, the Jags’ bottom lines relies more heavily than most fans think on the Jags’ yearly pilgrimage to the UK, which could be in jeopardy due to the withdrawal of Khan’s offer.
“The revenue potential at Wembley stadium compared to EverBank field is significant,” Lamping said shortly after Khan’s bid to purchase Wembley was revealed in April. “We’ve talked about the importance of London to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Those dollars that we generate in London make us stronger and more stable here in Jacksonville.
“It’s a really critical part of our future.”
There is speculation as to how and where the Jags would compensate for a potential loss of London revenue, and what that could mean for NFL football in Jacksonville’s future.
The NFL has reportedly pinpointed 2022 as a target date for an NFL franchise to be active in London. With Khan’s affinity for and extensive business holdings in the city, most observers assumed the Jags would end up there at one point or another.
But Khan said in a statement that although the canceled Wembley sale was “a disappointing development” that the team would nonetheless ensure “a promising long-term future for the Jaguars in Downtown Jacksonville,” which some take to mean the Jags might end up staying in Jacksonville fir now, but still end up in another city later, including London, since Khan also added that he could be “revisiting the opportunity” for buying the stadium in the future.
That part doesn’t make Jaguars fans feel any better.
Jacksonville was chosen for one of two expansion teams in 1993 over cities such as St. Louis and Baltimore, which had previously hosted–and lost–NFL franchises. The other city awarded a team was Charlotte, North Carolina.
At the time, 15 cities had been in the running for an NFL franchise, with Jacksonville, interestingly, being among the few of the 15 that did not have a Black mayor.
The city’s NFL win was a pleasant surprise after the League initially signaled it would not consider a franchise in Jacksonville due to the city having what it perceived was a visible and persistent level of massive segregation, and a population that ranked ahead of only tiny Green Bay’s in sheer numbers.
The Jaguars are the only major sports team active in the city, which does not have a pro basketball team like Miami or major league baseball team such as Tampa Bay.
Jacksonville has long been known as a staunch college sports city, and is considered almost the second home of the Florida Gators.
The Jaguars began play in 1995 and went on to the AFC Championship the following season.
The Jags were estimated to be worth $2.075 billion by Forbes in June.