Playing at Wembley has now become a “home” game in more than just name for the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to the NFL franchise’s man in London.
This Sunday’s clash against the Baltimore Ravens marks the fifth consecutive year the Florida-based team have opted to play a designated-home fixture in London, with at least three more visits to come until 2020.
Hussain Naqi, the Jags’ senior vice-president for international development, says the franchise’s commitment to the capital has seen it cross a rubicon in popularity amongst Londoners.
“Last year we noticed a real tipping point,” he told City A.M.
“There was a predominance of Jaguars fans whereas many of the other games tended to be a great mixture of NFL fans. Our game was dominated by Jaguars fans and I anticipate Sunday being no different.
“London is our second home and it has adopted us. You can tell that from the knowledge fans have developed about the game to the one-sided support that we’re getting.”
A decade into the NFL’s relationship with London, over 40,000 “season tickets” have been bought for this year’s four games — last year it was just over 35,000 for three games.
The potential of a London franchise remains a constant topic of speculation and the Jags, who share owner Shahid Khan with Fulham Football Club, are the obvious candidates.
Their presence in city extends to community projects such as a “Reward Rows” scheme in partnership with wealth management firm LGT Vestra US, which will send over 500 schoolchildren to Wembley this weekend.
“Our responsibility both as a team and a league here is to learn as much about this market as we possibly can such that if and when the owners decide they want to explore that question, we have as much information ready as possible,” says Naqi.