Sports

Will the Jaguars Become the First London-Based NFL Franchise?

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The NFL International Series in London has been an overwhelming success as games have continued to sell out 12 seasons since the first contest was played at Wembley Stadium. The addition this year of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium into the fold to host two events have allowed the games to be played on turf rather than the grass field of Wembley Stadium. The atmosphere has improved significantly since the early stages of the series, allowing the teams that have given up home games for the fixture to have a real feel of a home-field advantage.

No side has appeared more in the fixtures than the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have close ties to London considering that their owner Shahid Khan also owns Fulham Football Club. Khan also tried an ambitious move to buy Wembley Stadium from the Football Association, although it ultimately did not come to pass. The motives behind his bid were reported to be the idea of potentially moving the Jaguars to London to become the first franchise to move overseas.

The NFL has suggested that a team could move to London in the near future, although it would involve either adding a 33rd side to the league or moving one that is entrenched in a city. Teams have been shifted recently as the Rams and the Chargers have both been relocated to Los Angeles from St Louis and San Diego respectively. A team in the mold of the Jaguars would make a lot of sense as their crowds at TIAA Bank Field have not been overwhelming, with their average attendance putting them in the middle of the pack.

It is worth considering that there is already the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida to represent the NFL, along with a large number of college football teams that have had success over the years. The Jaguars popularity on Facebook suggests that there is not a huge digital following of the franchise, boasting only 633,060 likes. During their time in Jacksonville there has not been the element of success that naturally drives an increase in popularity. The Jaguars have never reached the Super Bowl, earning three AFC Championship berths, but they’ve never managed to get over the hump. Most recently they allowed a 10-point lead against the New England Patriots to slip into the fourth quarter to miss out on the opportunity to compete for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Under Doug Marrone there was hope that the core of players could compete in the AFC for the next five years, but they’ve already been whittled away. Quarterback Blake Bortles was released at the end of the 2018 season after failing to become the quality starter the franchise expected he would become when they selected him in the first round of the 2014 Draft. All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey has been traded away to the Rams for two first-round picks, leaving the Jaguars without a true franchise player.

As a result, there’s nothing tying down the team to Jacksonville outside of a small number of core supporters. If the NFL was to move a team to London – the Jaguars would be their prime target and it would make a great deal of sense in regards to all parties.

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