By: Rob Johnson (@rj1452)
Long term success requires great sacrifice. With the announcement that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be playing one home game in London from 2013-2016, Shahid Khan is forcing his fans to experience this great sacrifice. Whether you are a original season ticket holder, a new 30 Game Plan buyer or a person who saves just enough money to attend one game each season, the reality of losing multiple regular season home games is tough news.
Likely, the annual game chosen for London will be a non-conference, marquee match-up. If the NFL continues its scheduling trend, that means the Jaguars will be playing the NFC West in 2013, the NFC East in 2014, the NFC South in 2015 and the NFC North in 2016. If this is the case, Jaguars fans will be potentially robbed of seeing any of these teams play in Jacksonville: 49ers, Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Saints, Panthers, Packers.
Should the NFL decide to change the London game match-up style, the Jaguars could face the Broncos or Patriots in the four-year span. That would be unfortunate, as it could be the last time for many Jaguars fans to see Peyton Manning or Tom Brady play in-person. Ask St. Louis fans what they think about not being able to see Brady play this year. You likely won't get a positive response, even though he devastated them in Super Bowl XXXVI.
At the London press conference, Commissioner Roger Goodell left open the possibility of AFC South games being played in Wembley Stadium. If the Jaguars embark upon a journey back to the top of the division, this would be a very bad scenario for fans.
The franchise has laid a foundation for success, and all of Jacksonville, North Florida, etc. deserves a chance to experience every aspect of a winning team. However, the Jaguars are far from an elite NFL team, so Mr. Khan's commitment to London makes sense when considering all factors.
The sacrifice Mr. Khan has forced upon the fans will be worth the all of the pain, if the Jaguars become successful, on and off the field, during the next four years. If the team continues to flounder, then not many will care about missing one more chance to watch the Jaguars lose.
At that point, the London game will truly become the focus of business building for the city of Jacksonville and creating a strong European fan base, if it's possible to do that with a losing team. However, that will not be setting the stage for a relocation to London for the Jaguars.
Mr. Khan is truly "All In" for the Jaguars. Because of this, he must take unconventional steps to re-establish the franchise. Off-field factors such as new sponsors, larger commitments from current sponsors, an expanded fan base at home and new fans abroad are a few keys to making the Jaguars more relevant in the NFL.
I've heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder. The Jaguars now have the opportunity test this phrase. If the team becomes a playoff contender, people throughout the North Florida region will have their interests intensified. This will lead to a greater ticket demand for games played in Jacksonville.
A contending team could also create a dedicated, intense European fan base. That may lead to an influx of new corporate sponsorship dollars for the Jaguars, as European companies will want to market to European fans and possibly U.S. fans. Those companies, and others, may also focus on the city of Jacksonville for strictly business purposes. Plus, U.S. companies would have unique access to new European customers.
Also, a winning franchise leads to increased merchandise sales. This is an area that could be a huge impact for the Jaguars. A loyal, passionate fan base in the U.S. and Europe could catapult the Jaguars to the top of NFL merchandising.
Even with the potential positives I have described for the Jaguars and Jacksonville, losing just one home regular season home game, let a lone four, is still unpleasant. Nevertheless, this sacrifice is necessary in order to attempt to create a louder roar for the Jaguars.
• With the Rams backing out their three-year commitment to London, the league lost it's chance to establish a foundation for long-term fan loyalty. This appears to be a key to the NFL's London strategy. Mr. Khan's four-year commitment makes him a savior for the league, and that will pay dividends to the Jaguars and Jacksonville.
• The average fan will be priced out of the London games. The current costs of travel/ticket packages range from $999 to $2,599 per person.
• I would like to see annual press conferences in Jacksonville describing the business strides made and the anticipated business possibilities created by the Jaguars playing in London.
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