Could Shahid Khan ‘pull a Kroenke’ with the Jacksonville Jaguars?

Jacksonville Jaguars, Sports Biz

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has made a serious offer to buy Wembley Stadium, where the NFL plays its annual games in the UK.

As the Los Angeles Rams continue to fight a lawsuit levied against them by former St. Louis Rams season ticket holders over owner Stan Kroenke’s relocation of the team to the stadium he will own in Inglewood, Calif., history might repeat itself with Shahid Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

An Evening-Standard report makes clear that Khan has made a very tempting offer, £500 million (about $700 million) to be exact, to take over ownership of Wembley Stadium. If his offer is accepted and the sale eventually finalized, one of the most important pieces to the puzzle of the Jaguars becoming the NFL’s first franchise in the UK would be in place.

There’s more reason for Khan to be interested than just to have a place to possibly relocate his franchise, however. Wembley serves as the English soccer team’s home for most of its international matches. That’s a big pie Khan would get a piece of. It’s also possible Khan desires to build up amenities around the stadium to make it more of a destination for people seeking all forms of entertainment, not just sport.

This could signal a further investment by the NFL in the UK market. On top of potentially playing more regular season games at Wembley, the NFL could play off any partnerships Khan makes with UK brands to grow its fan base in the country. It would also provide a clearer path for the elephant in the room, which is an NFL franchise calling Wembley home.

As far as relocating the Jaguars to Wembley goes, it might be a sound move financially, much like Kroenke’s. A franchise owning the stadium it plays its home games in has several advantages, like full control over vendor agreements, sponsorships and what other events the stadium hosts. Teams also don’t have to share revenues with local municipalities like teams who play in stadiums owned by those municipalities. Those are examples of the benefits Kroenke sought and Khan might do the same.

Jaguars fans shouldn’t fear such a move as inevitable, however. In order for this to become a reality, Khan will have to convince most of the rest of the NFL’s owners that the value of their franchises would grow if the Jaguars moved across the Atlantic. In order to make that sales pitch, the NFL would have to start playing games in the stadium more regularly to prove that model would be sustainable and more profitable than games in Jacksonville. Sponsors would have to be lined up to replace existing ones for the Jaguars and a comprehensive television/streaming rights package in the UK would have to be negotiated. It might be more likely that Wembley will be the future site for expansion of the NFL rather than relocation of an existing franchise.

Khan’s bid for the stadium shouldn’t be taken as a sign of impending doom for the NFL in Jacksonville at this point, regardless of how similar the narrative seems to be to Kroenke, the Rams and St. Louis. With that being said, Khan wouldn’t be spending $700 million for nothing.

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