Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan sat down with NFL Network’s Melissa Stark to express his excitement ahead of the weekend’s showdown between the Jaguars and reigning Super Bowl Champs, the Philadelphia Eagles. Coming into this sixth Wembley fixture, the Jags owner shared how much of a boon the Jags’ growing international fan base has become:
“I think the secret [to winning in London] is the growth of the fan base. You know, I asked the players – it’s like why? And they said it’s really the enthusiastic crowd.”
Certainly, Khan himself is no stranger to the city. Along with owning the Jaguars the auto-industry magnate is also the owner of Fulham Football Club in the Premier League, and the Jags’ annual return to the British capital as lead to a lot of speculation about whether the Florida-based team might be the mythical ‘London Franchise’ that the NFL have openly said they aspire to in the not so distant future.
Momentum behind this only seemed to be growing when Khan’s bid to purchase the NFL’s home in London, Wembley Stadium, was accepted by the FA, but with the bid now withdrawn after Khan felt the proposal didn’t have the popular support he would have liked for it – what now for the future of the NFL in London?
Well, according to Khan the Jags’ interest in the city has never been about making the move, but rather simply about growing a fan base with fans of the sport hungry for a bit more football in their lives:
“You know when I got the Jacksonville Jaguars we had a very small fan base, so it was… How do we grow it? And the logical thing was to really grow overseas.
At that point we were 31 out of 32 teams on fan recognition outside the US. If you look like last year, depending on what survey, we were either number two, to seven, so it’s grown dramatically.
For some of them, they didn’t have an NFL team, and so when they heard we were playing in London, playing regularly – they adopted us.”
The Lahore-born Billionaire went on to emphasise just how international the NFL’s International Series has become, when describing the typical NFL fan in London:
“One thing we’ve learnt […] people outside the US do want NFL. 40% of the people coming to this game are from outside Britain. 30% are from outside Greater London. So the fanbase is a really a different fan base that wouldn’t be going to your typical NFL game – and that’s what you want.”
The Jaguars take on the Eagles at Wembley later this week. Ahead of the big game the Jags are reaffirming their there commitment to their international fans with a bunch of exciting activities. Whether it’s breaking records by tossing hot dogs, their opening training session that includes the climactic final to the Jags Se7ens Cup, or joining hundreds of fans at Saturday’s NFL Live event? The Jags are emphasising that they’re here to stay… just maybe not in that way.