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Can Khan's soccer team have fan influence on Jags?

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LONDON -- Craven Cottage is a rustic, farm-like soccer arena nestled gently on the bank of the historic River Thames, and it plays home to Fulham FC. A half hour before kickoff, the line for pints begins to dwindle and the pavement walkways surrounding the pitch are dotted with huddled fans waiting for the starting lineups to be announced.

The first thing one notices after crossing the barrier between concessions and stands are how these groups of fans form a massive upper-deck sound machine as soon as the match starts. Everything in the quaint arena sounds like it's shot out of a megaphone thanks to the close proximity to the field. They hum bars of "My Darling Clementine" and "I love you baby," injecting their club's name in different places.

This is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan's other passion project. Aside from working to turn around one of the NFL's cellar-dwelling franchises, he's also hoping to resurrect a Fulham team that was relegated from the Premier League a year ago.

In this joint venture, one might inform the other and, in this case, that could enhance and diversify the fan experience unlike any American team we've ever seen.

Khan is absorbing everything in the midst of a rabid fan base that shares another one of his passions -- cricket.

"You gotta remember, I grew up playing cricket," Khan told Around The NFL in an interview last week (you can read our full piece on Khan and his love for London here). "And cricket was really the key sport. Then, when I would go to London we would get exposed to soccer -- English football.

"I got more interested after being a part of the Jaguars seeing how we stabilize and try to grow our fan base. We're obviously playing in London on a regular basis and then once that happened, acquiring Jaguars and playing games in London, that was the third step in the process.

"I'd been to Fulham a few times before, and it just absolutely aligns perfectly with our mission to have some core development from the business but also early-fan development."

Sunday's Bills-Jaguars game was the closest thing we've seen to a full blending of both sports cultures. Jaguars fans were given flags to wave before and during the match. They were tailgating -- a rarity during soccer matches -- and were treated to a round of British rock classics by the Ohio State marching band before the game.

Every game, all season

There's a chance that the lines never blur significantly, of course. Though fan bases of both sports are still growing in their non-native countries, they remain a budding niche element. But seeing Khan's soccer club through the prism of football fans was worth the case study. How different and how influenced could Jacksonville become by their neighbors in the east?

Khan's Fulham team also pulled off a stunning come-from-behind win this weekend. Against Reading on Saturday, the songs never wavered despite a dismal first half that found the club trailing, 2-0, heading into the half. A three-goal burst in seven minutes almost completely silenced the Reading side, prompting yet another musical number from high atop Fulham's stands.

"You're not singing, you're not singing, you're not singing anymore!"

While we didn't hear it during the Jaguars' game Sunday after Blake Bortles knelt down to run out the clock -- we also didn't see many fans brandishing Jaguars home scarves or lining up for meat pies at halftime -- it's fair to wonder how that might change over the life of Khan's extended deal with London.

In his recent interview with Around The NFL, Khan estimated that he brings 5,000 or so fans from Jacksonville to the United Kingdom every year. Will they bring a song back next time?

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