Even while an official announcement was made in the UK that the Jacksonville Jaguars would play one game a season at London’s Wembley Stadium, between 2013 and 2016, official bodies were keeping tight lipped.
First thing this morning there was a refusal by the NFL’s British branch, NFLUK, to mention anything about the rumors of a Jaguar jaunt. Hours later I was informed by a spokesperson at the English Football Association that Wembley operated with a policy of ignoring rumors.
However, what I was directed towards was a press release from January of this year that laid out a short term plan for NFL franchises playing one-off games in London.
In this press release it was stated by the managing director at Wembley, Roger Maslin, that “this deal gives Wembley the exclusive staging rights to all overseas NFL games in the UK for the next five years. It cements the extremely positive partnership that exists between Wembley and the NFL and is acknowledgement of Wembley’s position as one of most important and iconic sports venues in the world.”
However, more tellingly than this, Wembley’s head of ‘Music and New Events’ was quoted in the same release. He said “the NFL has delivered quality events to Wembley every year since 2007 and we are delighted that this new deal will see us host the International Series games at Wembley Stadium until 2016. By 2016 we will have hosted a decade of American Football at the new Wembley.”
Reading between the lines here it could be suggested that Shahid Khan has three years to build up a British fan base. After this period the FA and Wembley officials will have no obligation to one-off games and will be free to negotiate a new contract.
It works the other way, as well. Wembley officials have three years to assess the situation. If they feel they can host more games, or they feel they can profit from the relationship with Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars faithful, then they have enough time to ensure that no other events can be booked in to the iconic London venue beyond 2016.
There is much to be ironed out, still. If Khan and his board are set for a London move then who is to say they will not approach other bodies in London, should the FA balk at a further deal? With all the 65,000 tickets for this year’s St. Louis Rams game against the New England Patriots being sold, and with the NFL claiming that there are 2 million “avid” fans in the UK, there is cause for thought.
This being said, no one is putting their cards on the table just yet. They will all be waiting to see how the British and American fans react over the next few years, first.