Jaguars fans on Twitter were whipped into a frenzy on Tuesday when Bart Hubbuch, an NFL writer for the New York Post claimed that Roger Goodell had told him that "there’s a good chance the Jags will play TWO "home" games [per year] in London very soon." He then went on to speculate that the Jaguars would be relocating to London by 2020. This, of course, did not sit well with many Jaguars fans and they took to Hubbuch on Twitter to voice their anger, concern and questions. After much prodding and back and forth between Hubbuch and fans alike, the quote came to the surface, and it didn’t quite match up with the claim being made. I could go on to further explain what all transpired, but I’m sure most reading this will be well enough versed in the subject to not need my repeating it. This claim, however, has gone on to spark a number of other comments and speculations from many in the media, on blogs and Twitter, suggesting that it is only a matter of time before the Jaguars are playing 8 home games a year in London.
While I have no issue with individuals speculating on the fate of our franchise - I’m not so insecure so as to worry what every inconsequential person thinks of and voices about my team, if those thoughts are intelligently put together - I do have an issue when false information is used to meet an agenda and facts are omitted so as to spin a story, rather than letting the facts create the story. Since we’ve seen one side of the story in full print, the one that suggests that a move is inevitable, I think it’s time that the other side of the story be exposed.
The idea that Jacksonville cannot support a franchise starts and ends on one single point. This point, that often goes uncovered, is that since 2009, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been the least valuable team in the entire National Football League. This is something that cannot continue if the Jaguars are to remain in Jacksonville. This is not debatable, and I think most everyone accepts the fact. If the Jaguars cannot increase the team value, they will continue to come up as a franchise that could be moving.
Clearly this raises an important question. If the Jacksonville Jaguars are the least valuable team, doesn’t that mean that the team cannot sustain a franchise as well as any other franchise and therefore should be the first up to move? On the surface, this answer seems like a slam dunk yes. But if we delve a little further, we can see that there is a significant reason for the team being valued as low as they are at this point.
- 2009 seems to be a year that continues to come up when talking about the Jaguars. It would be General Manager Gene Smith’s first season, but more importantly both the year of the blackout and as previously covered, the start of Jacksonville being the league’s least valued team. But that’s not all. 2009, coincidentally also happens to be the year that the biggest strain from the housing bubble collapse happened. If we take a little time to do some research, we see something else, these events aren’t exactly coincidental at all. Florida was hit significantly harder than any other state by the collapse, and this problem was compounded by the fact that Jacksonville had been a developing city, one that logically would feel the heat heavy from the collapse. This lends itself to a few things:
- The inability to sell tickets, and therefore a storm of blackouts, in 2009 is not indicative of the fan base’s ability, or lack thereof, to support the team. When people were literally choosing between whether to keep their home or spend hundreds of dollars on football games, it becomes clear to see why they didn’t buy tickets. We will also notice at the same time, the Oakland Raiders (again a city hit hard by the housing market collapse) and Detroit Lions (hit double by the housing market collapse as well as the the automotive industry crisis) finished with lower attendance numbers than Jacksonville, so we can clearly see that this wasn't an incident that hit just the Jaguars.
- The team's earning power in future years is decreased, as the city tries to get itself back on tracks. It takes time for the fan base to get back on its feet financially. And given the large percentage of homes in Florida that are condos (typically the last housing type to normalize to current climates), the process might take a bit longer for Florida to pick up back where they are. Despite this, we've certainly began to see a steady growth within the community to financially support the Jaguars again. This process will continue to grow, and grow quicker thanks to the many efforts of Khan, Mark Lamping, the rest of the Jaguars marketing team, Tony Boselli and groups like the Bold City Brigade.
- A young, growing city was, for a long time, too young to financially support the Jaguars as they maybe should have. Alfie Crow pointed out in his article "The Rise of ‘Generation Jaguar’" how the team finally has a growing group of financially independent fans that will be the foundation for the Jaguars fan base going forward.
- The inability to secure naming rights on the stadium greatly impacted the Jaguars bottom line. Many would suggest that the inability was a sign of disinterest in the Jaguars and a sign that the team will continue to struggle for the foreseeable future. I, however, charge that it is more connected to the next point.
- Failed and oft times non-existent attempts to market the team in most ways, instead leaning on the expectation that a team can sell itself to the city, led to a franchise that for many years had a hard time connecting to the older generations that had the buying power for tickets and merchandise. This goes further than just in Jacksonville though, as the national presence of the Jaguars had been much smaller than it could have been. In addition, this failed marketing, as well as a vocally silent generation of fans has helped to create this idea that there aren’t very many Jaguars fans and that they don’t care.
I realize I've gotten a bit long winded here, so I’ll close this portion. I understand that there are other factors at play, both those that continue to show positive and negative sides, but I thought these were some important points that needed to be included to frame the current state of the franchise.
But none of these things discuss why the team should, or would, stay. Instead, they simply frame the situation that we’re currently in. So why wouldn’t the Jaguars jettison for London if given the chance?
- The discussion must first begin with the stadium lease. If the Jaguars are to move, they must find a way out of the lease that locks the Jaguars into the stadium until 2027. The only way out of this lease is for the Jaguars to be able to prove that they posted losses for three straight years. Given that Forbes NFL valuations has our franchise growing at 6% between August 2011 and August 2012, this will be no easy task. This will be further compounded by something we learned during the last CBA negotiations; the NFL does *not* want to make their earnings records public in any way. If they refused to show the books to the NFLPA in order to prove that they’re not earning as much as the NFLPA thought they were, it’s going to be equally as hard to get those books opened for the city of Jacksonville, especially given that those numbers will undoubtedly be used by the NFLPA as ammunition for their demands in the next CBA. Would Khan and the Jaguars risk their leverage in the CBA, and potentially alienate other owners in the process, for the ability to get out of Jacksonville? While this certainly isn’t impossible, you’d have to assume that this process wouldn’t be any where near as cut and dry as many would like you to believe.
- Shad Khan formed STACHE Investments Corporation in 2012 "to support business people in the area hoping to help them grow their businesses and provide new employment opportunities for people in the Greater Jacksonville area." There are some really important points from this that people are missing, it would seem.
- Earlier I mentioned on how the growth process in the community needed to continue in order to allow the support for the Jaguars to continue to grow. This investment corporation does just that. It offers an opportunity for community growth, which will resonate back with the Jaguars, as those helped will give back to the Jaguars, which thus increases the earning potential for the Jaguars. This is, as you can see, double sided. Khan is trusting in the Jacksonville community to be able to grow, and thus help the Jaguars grow.
- STACHE Investments Corporation is bad for the Jaguars hopes to move. Not only does it help foster growth in the community and the Jaguars, it does so with money from Khan’s own pocket. If you’ll allow me to share a story: this past March, while doing my taxes, I spoke with my tax preparer (who is regarded as one of the best within my state), I spoke with him about the business I’m in the process of starting and asked him some questions regarding the tax process. I asked him about how to go about donating to charities, and his response to me was simple; don’t. He them went on to explain that offering charity monies is great, but that you should never do it as a charity, and instead always use it as a means for company exposure. Now, while this concept seems ruthless, I think it really applies to Khan here. Not so much in the exact way that it was explained to me, but why did Khan use his own money for this investment corporation? Why is STACHE Investments separate from the Jaguars? If Khan was trying to lose money on the Jaguars to get out of the city, why wouldn’t he use the Jaguars as the funding body for this investment venture? Why not label it as some sort of marketing (Jaguars Give Back or something) and then pump tens of millions of the Jaguars’ money into useless ventures, so as to force a loss of revenue? The end process is the same insofar as how the companies and people receive the funds, however the source is significantly different. The way Khan is going about it is brilliant from a perspective as a whole, so as to continue to value of the Jaguars as high as possible while affording himself some personal tax breaks, but in terms of forcing the Jaguars to lose money, it is downright boneheaded. I, for one, refuse to believe Khan wasn’t aware of the fact that he is damaging his ability to move by investing in the community this way, if his intent was to move the team.
- The Jaguars have completely revamped their marketing campaign to be more efficient and greater reaching. They are building a Jacksonville Jaguars brand that, since 1993, when Jacksonville was given a franchise, has mostly been asked to build itself. Through partnerships with local businesses, Tony Boselli and groups like Bold City Brigade, the Jaguars are finally actively pursuing to become a part of the city culture, rather than expecting the culture to come to the Jaguars. Unlike the next point that I will discuss, the Jaguars are, from all accounts, marketing themselves in a very cost effective, efficient way. This goes in all directions from actual marketing costs to simple things like opening up extra practices, or having open forums for the fans to come together and talk to coaches.
- The London game increases revenue. This goes with the same concept as the second point for STACHE Investments that I mentioned, so I won’t elaborate on it too much, but if Khan’s focus is to find an easy out of the city, going to London for a "dry run" just isn’t a smart idea. The single London game adds a lot of revenue to the Jaguars, and thus makes moving harder. At its core, it also gives the Jaguars a much needed exposure on the global stage that it was missing, just like the marketing locally, this is a very efficient means to market and grow the Jaguars brand.
- The Jaguars are building excitement in Jacksonville, at every level. When Shad Khan fired Gene Smith, it became clear in many people’s eyes that the Jaguars were going to do what they had always seemed to do, and go try to fill their position opening with a surprise up-and-coming name. Instead, Shad shocked the football world when he was able to get Dave Caldwell, who most around the league had listed as the top GM candidate in the NFL. That’s right, rather than go for the apathetic choice or a GM that might fail and drive down fan support as the Jaguars fail, Khan set out to get the guy that many, even outside of Jacksonville, think can bring a Super Bowl to this team. And given that Caldwell’s first draft has been graded as excellent by almost the entire media, they seem to still have an excitement for what we’re doing and they still believe that we got a GM who is going to excite this fan base with the product that he is going to be able to assemble.
- Every Jaguars fan by now should have a good grasp of how dedicated to Jacksonville that Wayne Weaver was. To a fault, Weaver would have done everything in his power so long as he was an owner to make sure that the Jaguars stayed in Jacksonville. When he announced that he had sold the team, there was this excitement that came over him, and he was completely certain that the Jaguars were here to stay. At first glance, this seems like he just trusted that Khan would take good care of the team. But there’s more to it, this is the tie in piece that . Wayne Weaver had access and intimate knowledge of the financial situation of the Jaguars. He knew whether the Jaguars were turning a profit internally, and has a better grasp of the situation than even the Forbes team valuation numbers could hint on. If the Jaguars were losing money, I think we can all agree that Weaver would not be as certain as he was in the future, and it’s much more likely that he would have set out to make sure the team started turning in the right direction before he turned the team over to someone else. If the Jaguars were already making money, they fact that there is more excitement, more energy and more revenue coming in, it’s all the more unlikely that the Jaguars will be moving, and much more likely that the Jacksonville market is proving itself as a viable market now that the community is being touched the right way.
- Since taking over, Khan has begun an incredible renovation process on Everbank Field; new weight rooms, locker rooms, GM offices, coaches offices, owner’s office, cafeterias, and dealing revamps are all either completed or in the works. The Jaguars are also working with the city on bringing the league’s largest video board, and there have been talks of a new practice bubble being added in the near future. If the Jaguars are planning on moving, they are certainly going about it the wrong way. Every team that has moved in the last 50 years has done so because they needed a new stadium. By revamping the current stadium, the Jaguars are insuring that they will not need a new stadium in the near future. They are insuring that the fan and team experience in Jacksonville will be greater than previous, which will drive up excitement for the fans, as well as make it (even if just a little bit) easier to sell potential free agents on the idea of playing in sunny Northern Florida.
- The jersey and logo redesign coming while the team is in Jacksonville is a really simple one. It rebrands the product while they’re making the push to make the team marketable in this market. To rebrand them now would be silly if you’re plan is to have to rebrand them again in a few years. It just doesn’t make sense from a marketing perspective to rebrand now then rebrand again in a few years. And this brings me to the last point I will be making.
- When the Jaguars unveiled their new logo, they released a secondary logo that would also become a part of the jerseys. Of course, I’m talking about the military patch. For anyone unfamiliar with the subject, Jacksonville has a rich military history and presence. For the Jaguars to acknowledge that presence in the way that they did was the ultimate sign of respect for a city, and even country. The shield symbolizes the Jaguars commitment to the Jacksonville community, and their attempts to become intertwined with all that is Jacksonville. The shield is the ultimate sign of respect to the military, and to Jacksonville. If the Jaguars were to have put that shield on the jerseys, all even having an eye on the idea of moving out of the country, it would be the ultimate slap in the face to the city, the military, and even our country. For the franchise to pull at the heartstrings of Jacksonville by using the military as a pawn, for no other reason than they could? That would be downright deplorable. I think it’s quite obvious that the Jaguars would not even dream of doing that to the military. I’ve seen some suggest that this is merely a money grab opportunity, and that it’s not an appreciation for the military so much as an appreciation for the military's ability to effect the ownership’s bottom line. However, while there is no doubt that all business side decisions are in some shape or form influenced by the financial side of it. The point of the matter is much more so that putting the shield logo on jerseys and logo while planning to stay in Jacksonville is a way to pay respects and show your dedication to the city and military while making money, whereas putting the shield on there with the intent to leave is a way to slap the city and military in the face while making money. To do the latter is completely disrespectful. I'd like to think that a man who moved to America for a better life, struggled, worked his way from the bottom and through hard work and dedication became a self-made billionaire would have a much deeper appreciation for America and the military than to pull something like that. I'm not sure there are many other (legal and even remotely logical) more disrespectful things that an owner could ever do to a fan base and the country.
Now there’s many other reasons that can be applied just to London; tax laws, travel time, issues with the CBA’s validity in Europe that are all hurdles for any team that would move there. Those all seem like they’re being handled well through other channels, so I won’t touch on them too much, but I wanted the Jaguar perspective on this issue, seeing as though there seems to have been no effort to get this out there outside of 140 character responses on Twitter.
London, you can keep on calling. But our voicemail is already full from un-listened to calls from Tebow and Los Angeles.
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