NFL owners still can’t agree whether Rams, Chargers, or Raiders should move to L.A.

Whenever I’ve asked about the prospects for an NFL team moving to Los Angeles, I’ve tried to stress that we have no idea what’s going to happen, in part because this is something that will be decided by a vote of NFL owners, meaning it could be determined by personalities of 32 rich guys as much as anything. And guess what? It turns out that the 32 rich guys can’t agree on anything right now, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:

Neither the Inglewood project, spearheaded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, nor the Carson project, led by Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis, has sufficient support to carry a vote…

Several ownership groups maintain that if the relocation came to a vote right now, there would be a sufficient split to hold up any move forward. The NFL will not bring the matter to a formal vote among the owners until enough straw polling has been conducted to ensure one of these projects has at least 24 votes in the affirmative.

Spanos is the more popular of the two owners among the general constituents, but Kroenke’s project is viewed by some as potentially the more lucrative for all the entire league — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Patriots owner Bob Kraft chief among them. Some estimate Kroenke would have as many as 10 votes in his favor right now.

Now this is some quality tea-leaf reading here: The NFL is split between people who don’t like Stan Kroenke and people who don’t like the Carson stadium project. It would be nice to know why other owners think the Inglewood plan would be more lucrative for the league as a whole than the Carson one — why people might not like a guy who is known a “Silent Stanley” and who bum-rushed the line to move to L.A. is less mysterious — but La Canfora doesn’t say.

Anyway, all this is good reason to bet the over in any pools about when this whole L.A. situation is likely to be resolved, because looks like we the hoi polloi are not the only ones confused about which deal makes sense. At this point I’ll going to be increasingly surprised if any teams are approved to relocate for the 2016 season, if only because it seems like the league could use a little more time to see which cities are shakedownable for stadium funding. (Current scorecard: St. Louis maybe, San Diego possibly but don’t hold your breath, Oakland only if you squint really hard.) Something has to tip the balance for league owners, especially when a three-quarters majority is needed, and that something is still in the future.

26 comments on “NFL owners still can’t agree whether Rams, Chargers, or Raiders should move to L.A.

  1. All of what the league has done the last three months, from the aborted scam they tried to put over on the Rose Bowl back in July (that “Request For Proposal” that looked more like the beginnings of an extortion plot), to this infighting over where the stadium project is going to be (IF in fact it’s going to be AT ALL), seems to be a continuing sign of how L.A. sports fans CANNOT TRUST the National Football League. And unless they wise up, they will be given the bum;s rush out of town forever.

  2. It seems obvious to me that the Rams are the ones who are going to move… if you’re the NFL, you don’t just want to move a team to LA, you want to leave behind a city that’s a credible threat to move to. Oakland is not a credible threat to move to for any team except the one that’s already there. San Diego isn’t that much better. St. Louis isn’t near any other markets and has a decent stadium that a team can play in for a few years while they build a new one.

  3. “San Diego possibly but don’t hold your breath.” Neil, hasn’t San Diego already submitted a proposal that would have the city paying for a large portion of a new stadium?

  4. @Andrew Ross

    I tend to agree with you and would add in addition to your logic, that if nothing gets done quickly, Silent Stanley has the money, will show his middle finger to the other owners and pick up and move anyway, no matter the cost.

  5. I agree with Andrew’s logic, but strongly disagree with JC’s. Just because Kroenke has money doesn’t mean he wants to burn it fighting lawsuits with the NFL, especially when it would mean forgoing $200m in G-4 money.

  6. Your right Neil. I guess I am so pre-disposed to hoping for:

    1) a board room brawl between all these billionares and,
    2) seeing Oakland giving the Heisman to the Raiders.

    it’s clouding my logic and judgment

  7. @ Andrew Ross

    Really good point. Personally, if any team moves, I’d prefer it be the Rams. The actions of the state and local legislatures blatantly trying to get around laws so they can swindle taxpayers is unbelievable and disgusting. I’m so tired of that nonsense. At least in San Diego and Oakland they’re talking about putting it to a vote. The California teams would also retain leverage as they could compete to be co-tenants in Inglewood.

  8. I agree (as noted on another thread) that Kroenke may have the inside track. I thought La Canfora’s comment that “Spanos is the more popular of the two, but Kroenke’s plan is more lucrative” was interesting.

    I am assuming that is not a typo… but it doesn’t sound good for Mr. Davis.

    Interesting take Andrew. I agree that no team will likely consider threatening to relocate to Oakland if the Raiders do leave, but am not so sure about San Diego or St. Louis as potential future destinations if either of those teams leave. I guess the one thing we’ve learned over the years is that the threat doesn’t need to be all that credible for it to work. The Cubs were never going to move to Schaumburg in the 1980s, nor the Yankees to the swamp.

    I do think that the “Stl being a more credible threat” in future is correct… but of course this means that the NFL would be leaving, by it’s own admission, the most viable of the three markets in order to have a good market to threaten other host cities with… Sort of an LA redux, really.

    What a wonderful world Piggy and his fellow owners live in….

  9. Neil: I don’t think Kroenke would want to spend his own money (and the league might actually step in to try to prevent him from spending too much if it came to that…), but I do think the fact that he has the money to make his own improvements (as with Jones and co) gives him a significant edge over either Davis or Spanos.

    Jerryworld wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t been willing to spend a significant amount of his own money (along with a bundle of taxpayer dollars too). We do seem to be in the middle of a major changing of the guard in NFL ownership. The money counts more than ever now it seems to me.

  10. The “Kroenke is rich” argument for the Rams to move to LA is simply ignorant. Stan isn’t going to spend his own money on a stadium, ask Arsenal fans about Stan’s deep pockets and the transfer market.

    There’s no way 1 team can go it alone in LA, the financing just doesn’t work. A team in LA will not raise the PSL revenue the 49ers collected in Santa Clara, the markets are not comparable. A 2 team stadium like Metlife is doable but still risky, a one team stadium is a joke.

    Kroenke has managed to piggy-back on Stockbridge’s residential/commercial development and his stadium initiative secured an open ended tax reimbursement deal worth $100s of millions for HPLC even if/when they don’t build a stadium. He’s also managed to secure about $400 million in public funding for a new stadium in St. Louis.

    The Carson stadium plan is the only financially realistic option unless Kronke and Spanos can come to an agreement to share ownership in the Inglewood project, but that leaves the Raiders with no stadium while turning down the $400 million of public funds in MO.

    San Diego has nothing without a public vote and the city money is just revenue bonds tied to future rent from the Chargers.

    London will be the new “Los Angeles threat” if teams move to LA.

  11. Two problems with your analysis David:

    1. Arsenal built it’s own stadium entirely with it’s own funds while Kroenke was a member of the board.

    2. If you mean London, England as the new LA, you should know that none of the present PL or general usage stadia in that city were built with public funds apart from Olympic stadium, which will not be available to the NFL.

    They might be able to rent Wembley (built and owned by the FA) or Twickenham (the RFU) for an NFL club, but they will be paying tenants at either. I don’t think the NFL has the appetite to change their business model quite that much.

  12. @ John Bladen

    Jerryworld wouldn’t exist without the large public subsidies especially the tax savings on PSLs due to Arlington owning the stadium. Inglewood has NOT agreed to own the stadium and the Inglewood stadium is supposedly going to cost $550 million more than Jerryworld.

    People need to face the fact that LA doesn’t care about the Rams. FOXLA would show the Rams games if people cared, but they don’t. CBS must broadcast the Chargers away games under the NFL’s TV broadcast rules for a secondary market but Fox in LA can show any of Fox’s games and the only time they show the Rams is when the opponent is the 49ers or Chargers. The Raiders, Chargers, 49ers, Cowboys, Pats and about half the teams in the NFL are more popular in LA than the Rams.

  13. Kroenke had nothing to do with Emirats stadium, it was completed before Kroenke purchased his minority share. I lived in East London off and on for a decade, I’ve been to Highbury and Emerates many times.

  14. It is difficult to compare UK and US teams. UK teams want to own the stadium–as many teams are cash poor and essentially live through a mix of short term borrowing, long term borrowing, and asset sales. The stadium and its property can serve as the main collateral for the team. (in Italy, towns often own the stadium and teams have been financially hamstrung as a result, so now are starting to build their own stadiums.

    US teams don’t need to bother with the stadium–they just want the revenues. The limited number of top “franchises” put a completely different spin on inter-city competition for teams, which in part drives the “civic virtue” behind the insanity we see in this country.

  15. GDub: I’d submit that the biggest reason for that distinction is that in the U.S., you can get out of paying property taxes if somebody else owns the building. Also you can threaten to move more easily, which is less of an issue in a promotion/relegation world.

  16. Then you know, David, that the NFL won’t be getting meaningful subsidies to put a team in London.

    You are correct about Kroenke buying in after the new stadium was built (just). Apologies for that. He did, however, have a technical partnership with the club and his MLS team and certainly was very aware of what the Arsenal board was doing with regard to Highbury’s replacement.

    RE: Jerryworld, again you seem to be arguing with me on a point I did not make (that that stadium was built without subsidy). Not sure where you got that from, as I certainly didn’t say it or imply it. Not the first time you’ve taken that particular tactic in this forum.

    I don’t think “people” need to face up to the fact that LA doesn’t care about the Rams. Whether people care or not is irrelevant. No-one in LA cared about the Raiders before they arrived. What matters to the NFL is whether they can create a market for the Rams (or any other transferred/issued club) there once they do decide to go.

    Why do you believe the existence of a ‘current’ fanbase for the proposed new team in LA is going to be an issue?

  17. I’ve told you many times why the rest of us owners are lukewarm about voting for any of these moves. What’s in it for us? You move your billion dollar ballclub to L.A. and now it’s worth 2 billion just cuz you packed a van and skeedaddled out of wherever. But the rest of us don’t see any change on our bottom line. Our beaks are dry!

    Two words come to mind: Relocation Fee. You know, that thing that some people say doesn’t matter and won’t be required? Those folks never sat in a room with 32 billionaires trying to cut up a pie for dessert.

  18. I have no great ability to read the tea leaves. However, on the “St Louis is a relocation threat, Oakland and San Diego aren’t” this doesn’t hold water with me.

    The St. Louis metro area is the 21st largest in the US. San Diego is the 18th. Both Portland and Orlando have larger metro areas than St Louis, though smaller than San Diego.

    If you look at TV sets, the St Louis market is the 21st largest market. San Diego is 28th. Again, however, Orlando and Sacramento have larger TV markets than either, and both Portland and Raleigh-Durham are larger than San Diego, though smaller than St Louis.

    In truth, both St Louis and San Diego are second-tier relocation threats, in the same category as Portland, Sacramento, Orlando and Raleigh.

    That said the NFL did relocate to Baltimore which is the 26th largest TV market and a part of the larger Washington-Baltimore metro area.

    Oakland is harder to quantify of course. On the one hand the Bay Area is a large metro area, 5th overall, and all the larger metros except Chicago have 2 NFL teams. On the other it is only the 6th largest TV market and Chicago, Philly and Dallas are all larger and have only one team. Additionally the Bay Area is the wealthiest metro per capita in the US meaning higher ticket prices are possible and ad prices may be higher. Furthermore, the neighboring Sacramento TV market serves some outlying regions of the Bay Area. In short, Northern California would be a possible relocation threat for another team, though that team would probably brand itself “San Francisco” “Sacramento” or “San Jose” rather than “Oakland”.

    In the end, I think “value relocation threat” is a wash. Every one of these cities would be a step down from LA in terms of the threat, but the NFL would still have plenty of roughly equally suitable cities to use for extortion.

  19. Market size doesn’t much matter in the NFL regardless. What St. Louis has going for it is 1) relatively new stadium and 2) political support for building an even newer one.

  20. One might argue new stadiums don’t matter much in the NFL either. Somewhere around 2/3 of the revenue comes from national TV deals. Presumably having a local team makes viewers more likely to tune in for games and thus increases potential ad revenue. Otherwise there would be zero logic in the league actually relocating to LA in the first place. If you negate market size as a factor, you have your answer: No team will move to LA.

  21. @ John Bladen

    I argued that Kroenke will not spend his own money on a stadium and you made up the false claim about Emerites and Jerryworld. Kroenke had nothing to do with Emerites and Jerry did NOT spend his own money on the Cowboys stadium.

    The taxpayers in Arlington paid for 1/4 of Jerryworld and untaxed PSLs covered more than 1/3rd of the cost. The G3 grant/loan covered $150 million and naming rights paid for most of the rest. Luxury suite revenue was icing on the cake. Jerry financed a large portion of his stadium, but he didn’t pay for any of it out of his own pocket.

    The problem with Inglewood as it’s been presented is that 1 team in LA doesn’t generate the revenue required to pay off $1.85 billion of debt. On top of that Inglewood has NOT agreed to own the stadium so stadium building revenues like PSLs, naming rights, vending rights… will be subject to Income taxes which is another deal breaker.

    Your comparisons are just flat out wrong and mentioning Emerites was a waste of time. Owners of Euro soccer clubs would love free money for stadiums but that’s simply not how it’s done over there. That’s the market every owner must accept if they want to own a club, the NFL owners are still looking for public subsides and St. Louis has lined up about $400 million to keep the Rams while San Diego and Oakland have nothing.

  22. @Scola – Baltimore had a city willing to spend whatever it needed to get an NFL team back in there, which is why they were awarded the “expansion” Ravens. None of the cities can offer that at this point, except for maybe St. Louis and that’s legally questionable at this point if they can get it done. Oakland doesn’t have the tax base, San Diego is still effectively broke while they sort out their pension problems, and the state of California isn’t going to chip in a dime.

    The extortion only works if there is a way to get the stadium built on someone else’s dime, and Los Angeles is really the only city without a team where that would be possible without a huge infusion of public money. The threat of moving to Portland or Sacramento really won’t cover it since the cities aren’t really large enough to “self fund”.

  23. @jmauro: If simple willingness to build a stadium using public funds was all it took to get an NFL team, we’d be talking about relocation to San Antonio as the likely next NFL city, not LA.

    The NFL, more than any other league, can get by with some franchises in a smaller market but at the end of the day their business model is predicated on people watching.

  24. They can’t decide who should move, how the hell are they going to decide who moves from the AFC to the NFC if they take the Carson deal.

  25. It’s not 32 rich guys, ask Martha Ford, Virginia McCaskey and Carol Davis who lets her son wear his hair like that, yikes. No sir, it’s the Club of 32. And you’ll never be a member!