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COVER STORY | FOOTBALL

awareness of the sport”, adding: “We want Jacksonville Jaguars to be a more recognised brand, we want to have more fans, we want the NFL to have more fans and the London fans to experience NFL and hopefully grow an appetite for more games.” It is a mantra that is a theme of the interview, although while the conversation inevitably veers towards London time and time again, Khan is as keen to point out what has already been achieved in the team’s true home market. Jacksonville may be the fourth smallest market in the NFL – only Green Bay, New Orleans and Buffalo have teams in smaller television markets – but the spectator experience is one area where Khan believes he can make a difference. The Jaguars have played in the 67,246-capacity, city-owned EverBank Field since it opened – and the team was formed – in 1995 but a recent spate of improvements have been spearheaded by Khan. “This is a business and a sport,” he points out, “where there’s a huge amount of competitive balance. All teams spend up to a hard cap and we do that, but what we do control is the fan day experience.” The Jaguars have, by way of example, invested in a new sound system and developed other initiatives such as letting fans bring their own food and allowing children shorter than 34 inches to enter the stadium without a ticket. “It is hard economic times certainly in America but we’ve done a number of initiatives to make it more fan-friendly,” Khan insists. Although he admits it makes it harder for him to turn the Jaguars into genuine NFL contenders, or even potential Super Bowl challengers, Khan believes competitive balance is “the holy aspect of NFL”, adding: “The sport, frankly, wouldn’t be the same without it so when you get into it, you understand it, you like it, you respect it, you want it to continue. “It’s about selling tickets, obviously; also demonstrating that there’s support for the team and, most importantly, that there’s the energy in the stadium. Then, do the fans have a good experience? In the NFL the competitive balance is profound, nobody can guarantee what can happen on the field but I think pretty much we can work up to a level where the gameday experience is good. If fans have a good experience, they will come back.”

6 | SportsProMedia.com

Jacksonville Jaguars: ten-year financial record Source: Forbes

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003

Value US$770m US$725m US$725m US$866m US$876m US$811m US$744m US$691m US$688m US$569m

Player expenses US$135m US$128m US$133m US$135m US$126m US$121m US$102m US$87m US$94m US$65m

Operating income US$29.6m US$32.8m US$25.9m US$26.9m US$27.6m US$22.1m US$22.5m US$34.6m US$16.6m US$36.5m

Revenue US$238m US$236m US$220m US$217m US$204m US$189m US$173m US$169m US$153m US$142m

Shahid Khan’s playbook: Management style “

Y

ou go through a progression in life,” Shahid Khan says thoughtfully. “I started out basically as one guy in a garage and then I had one employee, another employee and so on. Things change over time, they evolve and you find out after a while what works. What I’ve found that works is you have to empower people, not micromanage, support them, hold them accountable.” Although Khan is devoting much of his time to promoting the Jaguars and Jacksonville, he says he “knows where my priorities are”, adding: “I have a day job, which is significant. I have 17,000-plus employees making auto parts so there’s a huge amount

In a wider sense and speaking as a new member of the NFL’s inner circle, Khan is surprisingly cautious when asked about the league’s gigantic long-term television contracts, which were confirmed last year and guarantee some US$5.9 billion every season. “It’s a great time,” he says, “but one lesson from business: boom times are when complacency sets in, so these are also cautionary times, certainly from my perspective. The best decisions get made in hard times and some of the worst in boom times, so we really have to be careful that we stay vigilant, we don’t take the fans for granted, we don’t get complacent and we keep working harder

of responsibility towards them. But success in business really comes down to listening to the customer, taking care of the customer and finding the best people and putting them in the right place. The other thing is making money so you can reinvest. All three of those things, whether you’re in auto parts or the NFL, carry over. “There are 31 other teams,” he continues. “They’re all doing things well in different ways. What we have to do is benchmark and learn from them and some of the things apply to us, some of those things might not apply to us. There’s plenty we can take from everybody. There’s plenty to learn, especially for someone like me – a huge amount of learning.” to maintain the momentum we’ve gained.” Khan himself has much work to do in appeasing an existing fanbase and attracting a larger, far more eclectic one. “I think for me we want to serve the community,” he concludes. “Football, the NFL, is a civic asset – it’s a business and a civic asset. We want to make a difference, we want to win games and we want the fans to have a great experience. “It’s very simple. We want to contribute to the future success of the NFL.” At home or at the Jaguars’ new home away from home – and whatever the community – Shahid Khan has every intention of doing just that.

Home and away  

Shahid Khan is the NFL’s first foreign-born owner and the first to fully embrace the league’s international strategy for growth. As the Jack...

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