Everyone in Jacksonville needs to take a deep breath and repeat after me -- The Jaguars aren’t going anywhere.
After it was announced that team owner Shad Khan had purchased Fulham F.C. of the English Premier League, red flags all over the city and in the rumblings and grumblings of the NFL that Khan’s move to buy the soccer team could lead to more discussion of the team moving across the pond.
It’s not going to happen.
“Fulham is the perfect club at the perfect time for me," Khan said Friday. "I want to be clear -- I do not view myself so much as the owner of Fulham but a custodian of the club on behalf of its fans. My priority is to ensure the club and Craven Cottage [Fulham's home since 1896] each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future that fans of present and future generations can be proud of,” Khan said in a story written by Will Brinson of CBSsports.com.
While the Jaguars will be playing one game a year in London over the course of the next four seasons, the move to buy the soccer team actually helps the Jaguars and the city of Jacksonville more than you might think.
As someone who covers this team daily and is a fan of soccer, here is my theory on how football and futbol mix together.
The word when Khan bought the team was he was an international businessman looking to make a splash with the NFL and the international market. Speculation, mainly because the NFL has publically stated it wants more international flavor with its league, was Khan would move the franchise out of the one of the smallest sports markets in America.
Although the Jaguars have been poor if not awful since Khan bought the franchise, this has not happened yet. There are plenty of loopholes Khan would have to go through to move this franchise.
Since his taking over the organization, he has spent money out of his own pockets for improvements to facilities and the stadium. With the announcement of a $63-million project to place new scoreboards in EverBank Field and attract more sporting events and entertainment events to the city, he is the active player the city has wanted for years to promote the community as a place to come, not a place to leave.
And while Brinson did concede the idea of the Jaguars to London deal took a huge hit when the renovation announcement was made by Khan and city leaders, the idea of the team moving still was ramped up by the recent purchase of the soccer team by Jacksonville’s brightest star.
Still, it will not happen.
While the NFL’s global market is huge and continues to build, soccer and its following is larger. Khan can accomplish more by purchasing a team him Fulham and using his international connections to build business that can be used in the states and especially in the Jacksonville area. The auto parts mogul is building a stronger foundation here in Jacksonville. He is marketing the city in the right way and has people buzzing over the fact he has done exactly what he has said he would do.
When Khan bought the Jaguars, he spoke of a “splash” he wanted to bring to the city. I personally believe this is what he was talking about. Not the signing of Tim Tebow. Not the change in uniforms that has happened, but a true commitment to making this a destination players and fans want to come to. And while he can use soccer to come in and promote on a worldwide level, while there will be football fans who now support Fulham and its appeal, the people in England could very well root for our own Jaguars.
That is what you call cross-promotion if you ask me.
"Fulham and the Jaguars each have a great responsibility," Khan wrote to season-ticket holders in a letter, and is part of Brinson’s story.
"Both deserve nothing less than a 100-percent commitment from ownership. In short, our pledge to you -- a Jaguars franchise that is proud, bold and committed -- remains unchanged."
Until otherwise told, The Jaguars are still in Jacksonville. Shad Khan owns one more sports franchise. The city is receiving new renovations to EverBank Field. The team looks to be bigger, stronger, faster and younger than last season. And there is a buzz of excitement in the air. Isn’t that what a football town is supposed to be?
Seems like it. And it does not matter if the town has international ties to it. All that matters is the team stays put and the owner continues to do exactly what he said he would do in the first place.