Sam & Cole: Jaguars Return to Losing Ways

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After a win and a bye week, the Jaguars returned to the loss column with a defeat in the Meadowlands to the New York Jets. Sam Kouvaris and Cole Pepper discuss.

Sam and Cole Podcast art4

 

Khan Thinks Soccer in US is “Ready to Take Off”

Khan closeup TC
photo by Bobby King

by Cole Pepper
August 4, 2013

Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who purchased Fulham of the English Premier League this summer, appeared on Cottage Talk, a Fulham specific internet radio show. Khan again indicated that he expects to schedule a Fulham friendly in Jacksonville.

Perhaps the most interesting response in the interview was Khan’s observation about where soccer is positioned on the American sports scene.

“I think one of the things that I’ve learned over the last month, soccer in America is on the runway and ready to take off in a big way” Khan said. “I can’t tell you how many people have come up in the US to talk about Fulham.”

Considering that since Khan purchased Fulham, Jacksonville has been awarded an NASL franchise, soccer is as hot a topic here as it has ever been. And yes, Jacksonville soccer fans will likely have a chance to see Fulham in action, and it could be a significant opponent.

“Our goal is that we want to have a Fulham friendly here next year,” Khan said. “I think its going to be a blowout event. It’s definitely a sports on the move and on the rise in the U.S.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

Podcast #5: Cole with Mark Long

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Mark Long of the Associated Press joins Cole to talk about Shad Khan’s purchase of Fulham and what it means to the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguars and whether Maurice Jones-Drew is going to his old self for the Jaguars this season, plus a bit on the Gators.

Podcast #5: Cole with Mark Long

Mark Long

Jacksonville Restaurant Adds Fulham Sandwich to Menu

Fulham sandwich Pinegrove

by Cole Pepper

Ever since Shad Khan purchased Fulham FC of the English Premier League, sports fans in Jacksonville have begun jumping on the bandwagon. Jacksonville has, by proxy, adopted Fulham as the city’s favorite English soccer team.

And now, an Avondale restaurant is joining in.

Pine Grove Market and Deli (1511 Pinegrove Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32205) has rolled out a sandwich they’re calling “The Fulham.”

“We were already working on the sandwich, but we didn’t have a name for it,” said Ron Bajalia of Pinegrove. “My buddy came up with the name and it just works perfectly.”

The sandwich (shown above) consists of “homemade London Broil fresh from our butcher shop, with Gruyere cheese and a homemade horseradish cream on a pretzel roll!” according to Pinegrove’s facebook page and costs $10.

Everything was made from scratch for the sandwich, except the pretzel roll. It’s the only sandwich Pinegrove offers that uses the pretzel bun.

Reaction to the sandwich has been very good. They sold out on Friday.

Told about the sandwich, Jaguars owner Shad Khan laughed. “That’s awesome,” Khan exclaimed. “That’s a restaurant with a huge amount of foresight. I’d like to sample one of those.”

 

What Fulham Can Expect from Shad Khan

Khan Fulham locker
photo: FulhamTV

by Cole Pepper

Jaguars owner Shad Khan has completed his purchase of English Premier League team Fulham for a reported $300 million. I’ve already been asked on social media media and on a podcast what Fulham can expect from Khan as an owner.

If history is any guide, there will be change, but not right away.

When Khan purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars in December of 2012, the announcement was made the same day as the firing of head coach Jack Del Rio and the extension of general manager Gene Smith’s contract. While these decisions were made by Wayne Weaver, they were endorsed by Khan.

13 months later, Smith was fired and so was the coach he recommended, Mike Mularkey after just one year. Khan had spent his first season as an NFL owner learning and observing the processes and people involved with the organization. And not just on the football side.

When Weaver owned the Jaguars, he was in the office every day and served as the de facto team President (although nobody held that title). Even though Weaver had other business interests, he used EverBank Field as his center of operations and the Jaguars were his biggest business.

Conversely, Khan has Flex-N-Gate, his international auto parts business to deal with. He makes frequent trips to Jacksonville, but continues to live most of the year in Illinois, where Flex-N-Gate is headquartered. That’s why he hired a team president, Mark Lamping, to run the day-to-day business operations of the Jaguars.

Khan London Tower Bridge
Shad Khan joins Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer as NFL owners who also own teams in the English Premier League.

Also of note, from the time that Khan purchased the team, only two senior vice presidents remain. There has been huge turnover at the top of the front office food chain, as the Jaguars have brought in new people to handle sponsorship, ticket sales, legal, finance and created a new fan engagement department. These changes didn’t happen overnight. Although Khan had been pursuing ownership in the NFL for several years, he wanted to see how things worked from the inside. It’s not unlike the way he once attacked the car bumper business.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine in March, here’s what Khan said about his first season as an NFL owner, a year that saw the Jaguars win just 2 games and tie for the worst record in the league:

I don’t think just coming into the league right away you would have figured out what are the attributes for a successful head coach or what are the attributes for a successful general manager. As the year went on, meeting some of the other professionals in the sport, that was good. Certainly as the season progressed, there’s only two outcomes. You’re either going to make a change or keep people and you have to be prepared to do both.

I suspect that Khan will take the same approach with Fulham, whose Premier League season begins in August. Watch how things play out, find some people he can trust to give him some perspective on what is happening, gather information, then make a plan to mold Fulham into the organization that he believes will be the most successful. If he follows the blueprint used with the Jaguars, Khan will enlist his top people with Fulham to create a list of the biggest obstacles that are keeping the team from a championship. Then, he’ll determine the cause of those obstacles and create a plan to eliminate those causes. Those plans will likely not be subtle.

Jaguars locker room
The Jaguars new locker room is a $3 million example of Khan’s commitment to changing the perception of the Jaguars around the league.

Case in point: there was a perception that it was more difficult to lure big name free agents to Jacksonville because under Weaver’s ownership, there wasn’t as much capital to be spent on players, which over the previous several years was the case as Weaver positioned the team to be sold. Khan’s solution? Spend $3 million on a new, state of the art locker room, which is one of the best in the NFL. This off-season, the Khan is also spending money to upgrade the training and workout facilities. He doesn’t want to lose out on a prospective free agent for any reason that he can control.

The biggest business hurdle the Jaguars faced was local revenue which come largely from ticket sales and corporate sponsorship packages. Those were two major areas of focus in Khan’s first year owning the Jaguars. Khan will almost certainly assess Fulham’s biggest obstacles, both on the pitch and in business, and begin to implement a plan to improve those processes at some point within the first year of ownership. His goal with Fulham, as it is with the Jaguars, is to build a sustainable winner.

If facilities are an issue, Khan won’t hesitate to spend capital to improve them. In June, Khan announced that he would spend $20 million of his own money on a $63 million stadium improvement plan (the city of Jacksonville will pay the rest, as the stadium is owned by the city).

In short, money, or lack thereof, will not be an obstacle to building a winner. Khan’s net worth is estimated at $2.9 billion. The will to win is not a question with Khan. To me, it comes down to this: will Khan find the right people to advise him and provide him with the information that he needs to make the right decisions. If history is any indication, that answer will be yes.

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About the author: Cole Pepper spent 15 seasons on the Jaguars Radio Network as the studio host and from March, 2010-April, 2013 also worked in the Jaguars sponsorship department. He is no longer an employee or contractor of the Jaguars.

What Khan’s Soccer Team Purchase Could Mean

Khan Joeckel
Jaguars owner Shahid Khan (left) is reportedly in talks to purchase Fulham FC of the English Premier League.

by Cole Pepper

There are reports that Jaguars owner Shahid Khan will buy a soccer team, Fulham of the English Premier League.

If this happens, what will it mean for Jacksonville?

For starters, there will be (and have already been) those who aren’t informed who will say that this, coupled with the Jaguars playing a game in London each of the next four years means the Jaguars will be moving to London.  That is very much NOT what this means.

For the Jaguars, this means that Khan’s interest in owning as much of the London market as possible is now expanded. This should help the Jaguars become more of an international brand. How? Think of it this way. How many Londoners knew of the Jaguars before Khan’s purchase. How many know of them now? And how many will know of the Jaguars after four games in London? Graph those numbers and it looks like a hockey stick.

If Khan buys Fulham, you will see this shirt worn by some fans at EverBank Field. (photo: fulhamfc.com)
If Khan buys Fulham, you will see this shirt worn by some fans at EverBank Field. (photo: fulhamfc.com)

Now consider Fulham. How many people in Jacksonville knew of Fulham before yesterday? How many Jaguars fans will decide that Fullham is “their” soccer team to root for in the English Premier League? There are so many cross-promotional opportunities. A double header of an NFL game followed by a Fulham friendly, for instance. As a note, the Premier League schedule runs from August to May.

How about some cross-over for Fulham? Fulham plays at Southampton the day before the Jaguars play the 49ers in London. Think that could be a hot ticket?

This could help in sponsorship for both teams as well. Jaguars president Mark Lamping has said repeatedly that increasing local revenue (not money from league agreements) is his top priority. The Jaguars/Fulham cooperative could access a huge number of sponsors for each team that previously, they could not reach. Granted, this will demand fair cooperation between the “boots on the ground” in the sponsorship departments of both, but when Khan says “do it,” it usually happens.

This move can also provide a serious boost for the push for pro soccer in Jacksonville. There is a push to get either a North American Soccer League (NASL) team or a United Soccer League (USL) team. Those would be potential stepping stones to an MLS team in Jacksonville. Having Khan involved in soccer, even in name, raises Jacksonville’s prestige as a soccer city.

There are so many ways to leverage the dual ownership, especially in a city gaining major momentum for soccer, that if Khan does indeed purchase Fulham, it might be one of the more significant business moves of the year for Jacksonville.