By Barry Janoff
October 25, 2013: The way things are going in the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars could be the host for a Super Bowl in London before the league decides to return to EverBank Field, the team's home stadium in Florida.
Jacksonville played host to Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005 in what was then Alltel Stadium. It was the first and only time the big game was in the city.
Judging from the NFL's selection of Super Bowl stadiums since then, with venues already decided through Super Bowl LI and a trio of cities not named Jacksonville in contention for Super Bowl LII (in 2018), "Jax" would not be back in the rotation any time soon (or ever, according to some industry analysts).
However, London is getting serious consideration as being the host for a Super Bowl.
And the Jacksonville Jaguars, which have a game in London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday (Oct. 29) against the San Francisco 49ers, have also committed to playing in London in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Further adding to the contention that the Jags are quickly becoming the home team of NFL fans in London is that fact that team owner Shahid Khan also owns Fulham FC in the Barclays English Premier League.
“The experience the Jaguars have had already in London has been every bit what we anticipated and more, and this is all before we've even played our first game in Wembley Stadium,” Khan said in a statement. “We made the right decision to commit to playing a home game in London each season through 2016."
According to Khan, the Jaguars "have a broader worldwide fan base today and the anticipation for our London game later this month is shared by our loyal fans in Jacksonville, so it’s a perfect scenario for everyone. The energy and appetite for the NFL in the U.K. is incredible."
"The growing enthusiasm for the NFL internationally is exciting and we look forward to continuing to respond to this interest in our game."
The NFL this year expanded to two regular-season games in London and are adding a third in 2014. Next year's schedule, as unveiled by the NFL on Thursday: The Jaguars will host the Dallas Cowboys, the Atlanta Falcons will host the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders will host the Miami Dolphins.
Dates for the games will be unveiled at a later time.
"Our fans in the U.K. continue to demonstrate their passion for more football," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Next year, for the first time, we will play three regular-season games in London. We have scheduled three attractive games with four teams playing in their first International Series game."
According to Goodell, "The growing enthusiasm for the NFL internationally is exciting and we look forward to continuing to respond to this interest in our game."
Numbers support his statement. The NFL said it has more than 12 million fans in the U.K. More than 83,000 people attended the first International Series game in Wembley on Sept. 29, in which the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-27. An NFL festival loaded with league marketing partners on Regent Street leading up to the game drew more than 520,000, according to the NFL.
Since the International Series began in 2007, only one of the seven games played in Wembley Stadium has drawn fewer than 81,000 fans (just under 77,000 attended the 2011 game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Three of the games topped 83,000 and two drew in excess of 84,000.
NFL International Series
• 2013: Jaguars-Niners
• 2013: Vikings 34, Steelers 27
• 2012: Patriots 45, Rams 7
• 2011: Bears 24, Buccaneers 18
• 2010: 49ers 24, Broncos 16
• 2009: Patriots 35, Buccaneers 7
• 2008: Saints 37, Chargers 32
• 2007: Giants 13, Dolphins 10
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