Shad Khan isn’t going to buy one of the most iconic names in London sports history. The Jacksonville Jaguars — and Fulham FC — owner withdrew his bid to purchase Wembley Stadium this week after failing to garner support from the UK’s Football Association, who owns the 11-year-old structure.
It was a move that could have been the precursor to the NFL’s first international franchise. The Jaguars have been a frequent landing spot for relocation rumors thanks to fluctuating home attendance rates and the general apathy that followed a team that, from 2008 to 2016, averaged 11.3 losses per season. Jacksonville’s constant presence at Wembley — the club has played one game there every year since 2013, going 3-2 on their not-quite-home turf — made it the most likely candidate to bring American football back to Europe full-time.
Khan’s team has extended territorial rights over London because of a deal with the NFL shipped the Jags to the British Isle annually, but that deal expires in 2020. After that, Great Britain is fair game.
The chance of an NFL franchise relocating to the UK permanently seems like a long shot, but the league still has its eyes on worldwide domination. So if the NFL wants to exile one franchise to the land of rainy days, million-dollar graffiti, and delightfully cheap whiskeys, who’s the best candidate — and is it still Jacksonville?
The case for: the Los Angeles Chargers
You might be a fan of the Chargers — hell, you should be a fan of the Chargers, because they’ve arguably been the league’s most exciting team in 2018 — but odds are you’re not. And if you are a Chargers fan, you’re probably not in Los Angeles. Which is troubling, because that’s the city Philip Rivers and his cohort call home these days.
Moving the Chargers from San Diego to Los Angeles only served to decimate an already-fraught fan base. LA, for decades the boogeyman waiting to snatch up franchises whose home bases balked at throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at new limited-use stadiums, finally got the NFL team it had been waiting for in 2017. And it also got the Chargers.
Let’s see how that’s working out so far:
A major discussion topic among NFL owners/executives at this week’s league meetings is the Chargers’ viability in LA. PSL sales have been a struggle and team is expected to revise its Inglewood revenue goals sharply to a more realistic number: $400m to around $150m, per sources— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) October 17, 2018
Right. So a city with proven disinterest for the NFL teams it once had is now struggling to care about the two franchises it’s just been given. The Chargers haven’t been able to fill a 27,000-seat stadium with their own fans over the past two seasons, and hoping things will get better in a $2 billion facility in Englewood is a roulette number-level gamble.
How many Chargers fans do you see in this image of a Chargers home game pic.twitter.com/F97c2YiQuu— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) September 9, 2018
So why not send the Chargers to a place where they’ll be appreciated — a city that’s managed to draw more than 83,000 fans per game to watch a Jaguars team that effectively forgot how to play football for a wide stretch of the past decade? The club will even get a test run at Wembley this weekend when it faces a struggling Titans team for a game that will be broadcast on the West Coast at 6:30 a.m. local time and probably have no affect on local television ratings.
The bad news for Great Britain is that Philip Rivers could be retired by the time any move could happen — especially if Los Angeles and the Chargers are truly locked together for the next two decades. Even if he isn’t, this is a man who balked at a relocation 120 miles up I-5, so him moving to England for more than a few days seems unlikely. The good news is the Chargers could really use a new fan base who will actually appreciate them, even if it’s some 5,400 miles away. — Christian D’Andrea
The case for: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Do we really need three teams in the state of Florida?
The NFL could do the Dolphins and Jaguars a solid by sending the team in the middle overseas. The Buccaneers are the right one to kick out of the Sunshine State too, considering their consistently poor ticket sales.
It’s not quite Chargers bad, but the Buccaneers finished bottom five in the NFL in attendance in each of the last two seasons. So far in 2018, they’re in 27th with an average of 59,561 fans per home game — or 90.8 percent of capacity at Raymond James Stadium. Meanwhile, the Dolphins and Jaguars are both averaging over 65,000.
For most of the last decade, Tampa Bay has been the NFL city bringing up the rear in Florida.
In addition to the Buccaneers, the Glazer family owns Manchester United — the second most valuable sports franchise in the world behind only the Dallas Cowboys. So it’s an ownership group that is very familiar with big business and success in the United Kingdom.
The Jaguars’ Shad Khan’s ownership of Fulham F.C. has been touted as a possible precursor for a move to London, but the Glazers have their flag solidly planted in the market too. If it’s a Florida team shipping out, don’t the Bucs make more sense? — Adam Stites
The case for: the Dallas Cowboys
The time has come to build a new version of “America’s Team” and that can’t happen if the Dallas Cowboys are still in America.
This team just isn’t interesting enough to hold that title. The offense has struggled immensely, the defense is productive yet bland, and they’ve had the same moribund coaching staff forever. They stay relevant in the national discussion despite rarely being relevant where it counts — on the field.
It’s time to make a stand for the good of America, a change we can believe in. Move the Cowboys to London so a more worthy team can take over the mantra of “America’s Team” (not you, New England).
My new vote for “America’s Team” is the Los Angeles Rams led by Mr. Suave, Sean McVay. — Charles McDonald
The case for: the Jacksonville Jaguars
London already tolerates them, and maybe even likes them? Khan’s already got an office in the city thanks to his Fulham ownership, and it doesn’t seem like a little thing like his “divisive” bid for Wembley turning sour is capable of stopping him. And the Jacksonville fan base, as great as it was in 2017’s run to the AFC title game, hasn’t been historically strong. A chunk of the seats at the EverBank Stadium spent nearly all of the period from 2005 to 2017 quietly moldering under black tarps.
The Jaguars are trending downward after last year’s eruption, but their No. 2-ranked defense gives them the chance to be a legitimate contender in the immediate future. Why not share that hot streak with the United Kingdom — the nation that’s packed their games with curious fans even when Jacksonville fielded some of the league’s least watchable teams? — Christian D’Andrea
Which team would you pick?
Which NFL franchise would you relocate to London?
This poll is closed
The Los Angeles Chargers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Dallas Cowboys
The Jacksonville Jaguars
Someone else — and let us know in the comments!