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NFL fans in England don’t want the Jaguars anyway

Despite the growing popularity of American football in their country, fans in the UK don't want any NFL team permanently relocating there.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

London's Evening Standard reported Friday that Jaguars owner Shahid Khan was considering selling his current English soccer club, Fulham, to buy Tottenham in part to move the Jaguars, the NFL team he owns, to London on a full-time basis.

That followed news earlier this week that the new Tottenham Hotspurs stadium in North London will host two NFL games a year. Jacksonville already plays one home game a year in London, and has anchored the league's marketing efforts in the UK.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are not moving to London. Even if they were thinking about it, they definitely shouldn't.

Last November, I traveled to the NFL's International Series at London's Wembley Stadium to watch the Jags "host" Dallas. At first glance the addition of Tottenham's North London location to the mix seems ideal to expand the International Series without relocating a franchise. Multiple locations in London's sprawling geography allow for better accessibility. Tottenham isn't next to Big Ben, but it's much more centrally located than Wembley, which is far, far flung from the city's center. It's like Levi's Stadium or Gillette Stadium.

Based solely on my interviews with English and European fans who have turned the Wembley games into lucrative sellout events, here's what I can explain with some confidence to American, and European, NFL fans:

1 - Yes, England and Europe fans are excited for the NFL. The interest in Europe is very, very real. Did the machinations of Roger Goodell's Godless globalization conspiracy generate that? Probably? Maybe? But it worked. My advice to any American still incredulous about the NFL's legitimacy abroad is to examine the stateside growth of soccer and American interest in the World Cup, Premiership and MLS. Just as the current and previous generation of Americans embraced soccer as participants and fans (and consumers), so too have English fans with American football. In both cases international TV rights have spurred demand.

2 - No, London doesn't want the Jaguars. London wants the NFL. I met multiple UK Jags fans -- as in, European persons electing to wear Jacksonville Jaguars apparel of their own free will -- and none of them want the Jags in London full time. What all UK and European NFL fans want is more NFL and more quality. Literally every single ticket holder I spoke with said they were excited about the option of having between three and five games a year, but the prospect of season tickets, potential bad seasons and a fixed home team did not appeal to them.

3 - Most European NFL fans already have a team. Remember that stupid guy from college who saw a Guy Ritchie film and woke up the next day as a lifelong Manchester United or Arsenal fan? The same thing has been happening in England for the last 30-odd years: There are scores of young British fans who jumped on the Patriots and Seahawks bandwagons, much to the dismay of parents whose first memory of the NFL was Dan Marino's Dolphins or the Washington teams of the Joe Gibbs era. (Consequently, the NFL didn't receive TV coverage in the UK during the 1970s, which means Her Majesty's Kingdom is virtually free of bandwagon Steelers fans. THAT'S a foreign social policy worth striving towards).

4 - And UK NFL fans aren't stupid. The next watershed moment in the NFL's British expansion will come on Oct. 25, 2015, when Jacksonville plays Buffalo in Wembley. Stateside that's just an old-fashioned crappy hangover game relegated to a 9:30 a.m. ET regional broadcast. In England, where fans of all 32 teams will spend lots of money to travel to Wembley for their once- or maybe twice-annual NFL fix, that's a terrible draw. And the Brits know that: they follow free agency and the draft and play fantasy football. In terms of NFL IQ, they're really well-spoken.

5 - None of this really matters, because it's the NFL. One saving grace for fans in Jacksonville (and London) is that UK merchandise sales of all 32 teams is white hot, to the point where multiple third-party merchandise vendors at Wembley told me they can't order enough of any item of any NFL team fast enough. But as American NFL fans already know, corporatism never loses in pro football. If both the Jags and Bills limp into that October game and manage to keep the Wembley sellout streak alive, the likelihood of a London franchise seems that much more imminent.


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