Nine hundred million pounds. That was the sum Jacksonville Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan bid for the FA’s Wembley Stadium in April 2018, in an historic effort to transform the National Football League forever with the addition of its first London franchise. Although the bid was retracted in October of the same year, its emergence in the first place was surely the result of an inevitable temptation from the NFL to create or relocate a current team to an international base. But why is it that this move had not happened sooner when the financial benefits to the league are so blaringly obvious?

 

The advantages of expansion into the UK for the NFL brand are plentiful. In 2020, Jacksonville were ready to give up two of their total eight home games in the season to London, because the difference in income from Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field to London’s Wembley Stadium was staggering – with over double the revenue received on gamedays from a London game. Whilst these matches did not end up going ahead due to COVID restrictions, the 8 London games that the Jaguars have contested in since 2016 have granted a 4-4 record for the Floridan franchise, which is a heavy improvement on their tragic losing record in recent years. With stadia often left empty and a lack of winning culture in Jacksonville, what is stopping their potential relocation to London?

 

Well, relocation for the franchise would firstly not be plain sailing for the organisation. Despite high sales at Wembley Stadium for previous international NFL games, and masses of revenue for Sky and Channel 4 who broadcasted them, the idea of a new team in London is not completely commercially viable. The salary cap for a UK team would have to be raised above the salary caps of the other thirty-one teams, with higher tax rates in the United Kingdom, in order to offer incentive for players who enter the league (through the NFL Draft) to actually find themselves calling London home. This already causes massive complications regarding the thirty-one other franchises, who would no doubt be constantly disapproving of the extra funds granted to Jacksonville. However, the problems faced by the Jaguars would not only be regarding the organisation, but also the players and staff. Convincing players, executives and coaches to trade in sunny Jacksonville for cold, rainy London would be a tough sell, and the prospect of largely American players having no option other than to relocate to London and leave friends and family behind for weeks on end, potentially months, would surely be reason enough to prevent the organisation from undergoing this huge change.

 

Perhaps the change in location of the franchise has not gone through because of logistics. The biggest problem for creating a London NFL franchise had always been the use of a stadium to fit NFL capacity stands whilst being multi-use, not preventing English National Team fixtures at Wembley over the same weekend, but with the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadiums retractable pitch, this issue has been cleared. What remains an issue, though, is the undoubted complexities of creating a new NFL schedule for games to be played at home in London, which would leave teams travelling from the States extremely jet-lagged and disadvantaged in games, as well as scheduling away games for the ‘London Jaguars’ where the team would be jet lagged themselves travelling to America. As well as teams being jet-lagged, all London games would have to be played on late Sunday night to allow US television audiences 5-8 hours behind to watch the games too, which coincides heavily with popular TV at a similar time, notably Sunday Night Football on Sky, which will always remain King in the UK for sport. Surely leaving Jacksonville behind, and in the wake leaving hundreds of thousands of Jacksonville fans angered at the relocation of their team, just would not make sense.

 

Whilst steps have been made to allow NFL games to be played more regularly in London, namely the building of an NFL ready-made stadium in Tottenham and the steady monitoring of increasing NFL popularity in the UK (up to 8m invested fans now in 2021), the logistics and challenges behind relocation both prevent the franchise creation in London being quite ready for lift off. Maybe the situation is one to keep an eye on, as there can be no doubt the financial and global aspirations of the NFL would be aided heavily by the creation of the London Jaguars, but as of right now, it’s probably too early for any concrete discussions to be had on the relocation.

kob [Accesed 22/10/21]?