NFL franchise in London may not be good for Jaguars' stability

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A permanent NFL franchise in London -- something the league is examining -- may not be good for the stability of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The revenue the Jaguars earn from their annual game at Wembley Stadium is so important to the franchise that losing that money would place the team’s footing in Jacksonville in question.

"If the Jaguars lose our position in London it makes the Jaguars less stable in Jacksonville," Jaguars president Mark Lamping said. "As local revenue goes so goes our stability in Jacksonville."

Lamping said last week that what the Jaguars earn in London from tickets, sponsorships and marketing makes up 12.5 percent of the team’s local revenue. That’s down from 15 percent in 2013 and that’s a good sign because it means the team’s actual Jacksonville-area revenue has increased. Still, it would be a huge chunk to lose.

Yet that’s what would happen if the league were to place a franchise in London. The Jaguars have a deal with the NFL that grants them extended territorial rights in the UK, which allows them to make money via marketing and sponsorships. If the Jaguars weren’t making an annual trip, there wouldn’t be the sponsorships and marketing money the team has generated since its first game overseas in 2013.

"London has become a very important part of Jacksonville for us," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said. "A little over three years ago when I articulated that vision, people thought we were nuts. I was grateful [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell and some of the owners gave us some leeway. It’s been very good for the Jaguars and Jacksonville.

"I really want to see us protect what we’ve done. We’ve got a full-time staff over there and we want that to grow and really stabilize the Jaguars."

The Jaguars are on much firmer financial footing now than they were when Khan purchased the team in November 2011. According to the NFL, the Jaguars ranked 26th in revenue in 2014 (the latest figures released), which is up from 30th the year before.

The Jaguars are taking steps to help increase their local revenue and the hope is it gets to a point where London doesn’t account for such a large percentage. The team announced an average ticket price increase of 3.6 percent in 2016. The team already had the fifth cheapest overall ticket price, the sixth cheapest premium ticket price, and the second cheapest general admission ticket price in the NFL in 2015, Lamping said.

Khan is splitting the cost of a $90 million project with the city to build an indoor practice facility and amphitheater and renovate the US Assure Club seat area. The belief is the changes to the club seats -- which include a glass wall, club tables and bar rails -- will create a higher demand and a greater percentage of seats sold and occupied.

"We play in a stadium that is owned by the city. The city has the responsibility to keep that stadium up to date and well maintained," Lamping said. "We’ve invested right along with the city, which is not our requirement. We voluntarily invest because we think it’s in the best interest of the Jaguars. Then I think everyone agrees, or at least the majority of people agree, that having an NFL team in Jacksonville is good for the community. To be a stable team here, we have to be financially stable. To be financially stable, we have to have ticket prices that reflect what the value is."

Khan said in early September he wanted to extend the contract to play an annual game in London through 2030 but the NFL and Jaguars announced in October an extension of the deal through the 2020 season.

"If London is that important to the Jaguars, we better make sure we protect our position in London," Lamping said.