Earlier today news of a pending press conference to announce the Jacksonville Jaguars plans to play one home game per season in London from 2013-2016 was revealed, but the reactions to the story have ranged from excitement to flat out ignorance.
The news that the Jaguars are planning to play in London should not come as a surprise to anybody who follows the team with any regularity. New Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has consistently said since buying the team last November that he wants to expand the brand of his franchise into international markets. Not only does Khan see playing in London as good for the Jaguars, but he see it as an opportunity to help boost the international profile of the city of Jacksonville.
Khan’s decesion to play in London does not, however, signify in any way that he is interested in moving his franchise to Los Angeles or any other market for that matter. Ever since taking over the Jaguars, Khan has repeatedly and passionately affirmed his commitment to keeping professional football in Jacksonville.
Khan has never given any indication to suggest that he would move this team. In fact, he has done nothing but pour money into improving the Jaguars current facilities at EverBank Field in hopes of making Jacksonville a more attractive option for top flight free agents in the future. If Khan is such a smart businessman, why pour millions of dollars into a stadium you are planning on leaving?
Unfortunately for the Jaguars and their fans, the immediate national reaction to this news was to rehash the played out story line of poor ticket sales and impending relocation.
The truth is that the Jaguars biggest issue is not ticket sales, but that they are consistently ranked as the least popular franchise in the league. The Jaguars need to do anything they possibly can to get a share of the spotlight and increase their popularity. Even if it means sacrificing one home game a year four the next four years.
A simple Google search would completely debunk the myth that the Jaguars are at the bottom of the NFL in attendance and percentage of stadium filled. Apparently people are too lazy to look at the numbers, so I will make them abundantly clear for you.
In 2011, the Jaguars averaged 62, 331 fans at their eight home games which was higher than seven other franchises including the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With that number the Jaguars filled up EverBank Field to 92.8% of its capacity for home games, a number which was higher than eight other franchises including the San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Redskins responded to their poor attendance by actually removing seats from their stadium, but nobody is suggesting that we send them to Los Angeles.
The Jaguars and their fans will continue to fight the ignorant national perception that the city of Jacksonville cannot support an NFL franchise, most likely to no avail.
However, I can’t wait until 10 years down the road when the Jaguars still call Jacksonville their home and I can say I told ‘ya so.