The rainy, overcast backdrop from the University Club in Jacksonville's Riverplace Tower on Tuesday reminded some of the weather in London.
The English capital's tie to the River City will soon have more in common than a wet summer day.
With interest in the NFL in the United Kingdom at an all-time high, the Jacksonville Jaguars have made a multi-year commitment to International Series games in London, owner Shad Khan and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced at a news conference Tuesday.
The Jaguars will play one regular-season home game in the U.K. in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, all at London's historic Wembley Stadium. The date of the 2013 game as well as the opposing team will be announced in the months ahead.
"When we were talking about how to expand our game on a global basis, the big issue for us was finding a community that understood that this could be great for the community, wrapped their arms around it and say, 'This is a win-win situation,'" Goodell said. "And we also needed to find an organization that had the same perspective, the same philosophy."
The Jaguars were that team.
"We are a well-kept secret, and I think after today, that's not quite going to be the case," Khan said of Jacksonville. "One thing I do want to make clear, we are the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville is the heart of our effort."
On Oct. 11, 2011, NFL owners approved a resolution that authorized the league to schedule regular-season games in the U.K. in each of the next five years, including determining the number of games per season, the venue and the competing teams. All clubs were permitted to volunteer to play at least one regular-season game per year as a home team in the U.K. on an annual basis for up to five years, and the Jaguars' proposal was selected.
In addition to the Jaguars' 2013 game in London, the league is working to add a second game in the U.K. next year, with the intention of finalizing details in the coming months.
"The Jacksonville Jaguars will be a bold and ambitious NFL franchise," Khan said. "Playing a home game in London over four seasons is consistent with our vision to introduce and grow the Jaguars brand globally, and we're appreciative of the support from the Jacksonville business community to make this a reality and winning proposition for everyone. This is a priceless opportunity to share the business, tourism and lifestyle story of Jacksonville with international audiences, and I know it will give the Jaguars a unique and powerful identity within the league and beyond."
Goodell said the reason for the four-year deal is that the NFL believes fans in London would like to follow a specific team and have a connection to it.
Among those also in attendance at Tuesday's news conference were Mayor Alvin Brown, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, EverBank CEO Robert Clements.
"You have my 100-percent backing not just as mayor, but as one of the Jaguars' biggest fans," Brown said. "This team's success promotes the success of our city and region."
Prior to the Jaguars debut in London in 2013, the 2012 NFL schedule will feature the St. Louis Rams hosting the New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 28. Demand for tickets to this game has been tremendous, with all 65,000 placed on sale to date having sold out and the remaining tickets being made available to fans in September.
The international series of regular-season games to date has contributed to increased NFL fan interest in the U.K., with a current fan base of 11 million, including more than two million avid fans, a 32 percent increase in the last two years.
Television ratings have also shown tremendous growth -- with Sunday viewership of NFL games up 154 percent and the Super Bowl audience increased 74 percent since 2006 -- and the league has developed new and stronger business partnerships.