JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross is heading back to London.
And he’s bringing his teammates with him.
A person familiar with the situation said Monday that the Jaguars are going to play multiple home games in London beginning in 2013.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owner Shad Khan want to make a formal announcement Tuesday afternoon in Jacksonville. The person said the Jaguars will play a total of four home games in London, one each year between 2013 and 2016.
Khan has made it clear he wants to play games overseas in hopes of increasing the team’s brand globally. He even mentioned it during his introductory news conference last year.
The St. Louis Rams had been scheduled to play a home game in London in 2013 and 2014, but they pulled out last week, citing a need to focus on lease negotiations and ease fan discontent.
Jacksonville wasted little time scooping up the available games _ plus some.
For Ross, it means a return trip. The former New York Giants cornerback spent a few days in London watching his wife, American runner Sanya Richards-Ross, win Olympic gold.
Khan made a visit to the Summer Games, too.
His plan to play overseas started long before that.
Khan said last year he wanted to create an international fan base for the Jaguars (No. 31 in the AP Pro32) .
“The NFL is going to be developing an international fan base. Why shouldn’t it be the Jaguars?” Khan said in December. “In all honesty, internationally, they don’t know the difference between the Jaguars and the Steelers.”
Khan said the reason outgoing owner Wayne Weaver had been reluctant to play in London was because of “moveophobia,” the fear that fans would take it as a sign the franchise was in jeopardy of relocating. Khan is so confident things will work in Jacksonville that he has no concerns about playing overseas.
“I’m very open,” he said last year. “I think it would serve Jacksonville well to play a game or two overseas, to get the name Jacksonville out. If you look at some of the international Premier League teams, they have a huge fan following overseas in the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, etc.
“I think the NFL, in the long run, will probably be doing something like that. Why shouldn’t we be one of the flag carriers?”
Although the Jaguars haven’t blacked out a home game since 2009, they have struggled to fill EverBank Field the past two seasons, often needing to find creative ways to sell tickets to keep games on local television.
Playing in London or elsewhere would lower season-ticket prices and possibly improve the chances of enticing new fans in a tough economy.
Online: https://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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