NFL officials leak word that league could move Chargers to London, or at least threaten to

Man, no sooner do I go and post about rumors that the Jacksonville Jaguars could move to London than The Athletic (paywalled) goes and reports rumors that the Los Angeles Chargers could move to London:

The Athletic has learned through NFL sources that the possibility of the Chargers moving to London has been broached among league personnel. The Athletic also has learned that, while the team is fully committed to Los Angeles where it will move into the new $4.5 billion stadium with the Rams next year, the Chargers would at least listen if the NFL approached them about London as a possible option.

Finally, The Athletic has learned that NFL owners are concerned enough about the Chargers’ situation in L.A., where a crowded sports market and the presence of the more established Rams has resulted in a tepid embracement of the Chargers, that they would provide the necessary support for a relocation to London if the Chargers pursue it.

That’s a whole lot of completely anonymously sourced reporting, coming down to: People around the NFL are talking about what if the Chargers moved to London, and the Chargers owners would consider it, as would other NFL owners, given that the Chargers’ situation in L.A. is such a flagrant dumpster fire.

Of course, the problem with anonymously sourced reporting is that you never know what the motivation is of the people hiding behind anonymity — or to put it more bluntly, these people could be lying thanks to an ulterior motive. What could that be? Pretty much anything: Trying to scare Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke into modifying how much cash he wants from Chargers owner Dean Spanos to play in his stadium or into allowing them out of their deal to share digs entirely, trying to scare Chargers fans into buying more tickets to avoid having their team leave the continent entirely, trying to keep alive the London threat even though a full-time NFL team there still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (It makes sense if you’re the NFL maybe and want some sucker to take a travel hit in order to expand the league’s market, but less so if you’re that sucker.)

Regardless, if some within the NFL are openly (if not so open as to actually give their names) advocating for a London move to be considered, that’s a pretty blunt admission that approving the Chargers’ move from San Diego to L.A. was a complete catastrophe, and at least some league officials are looking for an exit strategy. London might or might not be it, but it certainly seems like somebody is ready to shake something up about the Chargers’ future plans, which can only mean one thing: More future ESPN articles where Jerry Jones talks about people’s balls.


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Raiders could move to London for 2019, according to man on TV doing impression of P.G. Wodehouse character

This just in: Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is in talks to play next season’s home games at Tottenham Hotspur‘s new stadium, according to multiple news stories all citing … aw man, the Daily Mail? Repeating claims from a single unsourced story is never good journalism, but doing so when the original story is in a paper actually banned by Wikipedia as unreliable is even worse.

And even worse than that, the original Daily Mail story actually does provide a source, but it’s an extremely problematic one:

NFL commentator and writer Ray Glazer revealed: ‘London is now an option for the Raiders. It is being discussed for them to play there next year. They are still trying to figure it out. The Raiders are discussing it. Do they play four home games, four away games, and back and forth again?

That’s actually Jay Glazer, who said that in on-air commentary on Fox Sports over a week ago, and provided no sources himself beyond just throwing London out as “a possibility as of now.” Then he signed off “Cheerio!” because that’s how you indicate to Americans that you are talking about England, or that you are Bertie Wooster.

This is a pretty alarming example of journalistic reification, wherein something gets reported once in the press (or in a British tabloid that is sort of shaped like the press) and then can freely be reported by headlines around the world because it was reported in the press, man. Not that the Raiders definitely won’t move to London — it’s a possibility, just like pretty much every other place on the planet — but it’s not a particularly new one or an exceptionally likely one. I mean, I could write that the Oakland Raiders could play next season at the Stade Olympique in Montreal, and it would be just as accurate and just as sourced. In fact, I just wrote it, and I’d put this site’s accuracy up against the Daily Mail’s any day. San Jose Mercury News, your task is clear.


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76ers owners interested in London NFL team, says somebody

Hey, there might actually be somebody crazy enough to want to own an NFL team in London! According to NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence writing on the Forbes website, “industry sources” say that Josh Harris and David Blitzer, owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, are “gunning to own the first NFL team in London.” In fact, their recent purchase of minority shares of the Premier League’s Crystal Palace, according to Lawrence, is an attempt to “get to know the market” in advance of a London NFL push.

Lawrence is a former New York Daily News basketball columnist now writing for Forbes as a “contributor” (i.e., freelance, possibly not paid); the number of named sources in his story is zero, which is always a bit of a red flag, and Lawrence’s previous record with unnamed sources includes plenty of misses. Presumably somebody chose to leak this through him, likely Harris and Blitzer themselves, which would make sense if they want to position themselves as the top candidates to get a London expansion franchise if one becomes available for the right price … but now we’re deep into multiple levels of speculation. File this one away, anyway, and if it comes up again, preferably from someone with an actual name, we can start to take it more seriously.

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NFL sure does think playing games in London is a good idea, and maybe Mexico and Brazil, too

The NFL’s get-Brits-to-watch-American-football marketing juggernaut runs on, with the league announcing yesterday that it will play between three and five regular-season games at Twickenham Stadium, London’s 106-year-old home of the national rugby team. (Though it’s been largely rebuilt in phases over that time. The stadium, not the rugby team. Well, both.)

On top of two games a year at Wembley Stadium and two at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, this will make at least five NFL games a year in London, which would seem to indicate that the league is trying to build a fan base for eventually placing a team there full-time. Or maybe not — as Deadspin notes, the London onslaught (thought I was going to say “blitz” there, didn’t you?) is part of a general campaign to bring in new NFL fans overseas, because how else are you going to expand your product?

It’s expected that a 2016 game will take place in Mexico City as well, while Spanish sports newspaper AS reported that starting in 2017 or 2018, the NFL will stage one game per season in Mexico City. Roger Goodell has also said the NFL is exploring Germany—which was by far the strongest NFL Europe market—and Brazil, which might host the Pro Bowl in 2017.

Of the big four American sports, football has by far the weakest presence internationally. Basketball is played across the world, and to a lesser more regionally-defined extent, baseball and hockey are too. That makes it a bit curious that the NFL has been so aggressive with this strategy, but also explains why.

The American market is probably close to saturated, and the NFL can’t count on foreigners picking up the sport locally and becoming fans. To win their loyalty the NFL has to actively and forcefully market, and evidently believe local regular season games is the best way to attract converts.

I still don’t expect to see a London NFL team anytime soon, though I suppose the problem of finding an NFL owner who wants to deal with the headaches of trans-Atlantic travel would be mitigated somewhat if the league made it an expansion franchise. I bet they could get at least $2 billion for that, right? What’s that in old shillings?

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Rams owner could force NFL to let him leave St. Louis by refusing new stadium, says crazy report

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora clearly has some good league sources (or some sources who want to feed him information or disinformation for their own reasons, as the case may be), but he must’ve been hepped up on goofballs when typing out yesterday’s article on St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s lease options:

St. Louis could, according to NFL regulations, present a stadium plan that makes it nearly impossible for Kroenke to move the Rams, but, given the nature of the team’s lease with the Edward Jones Dome, Kroenke could not have to play in any new facility.

He has the capacity to go year to year with the Edward Jones Dome through 2025, sources said, and thus, even if blocked from moving in 2016 and potentially losing out on the LA market — and no one knows what the ultimate outcome of relocation will be at this point in the process — he could still essentially bide his time in his current stadium and wait for other options to emerge (London?) rather than enter into a binding, long-term agreement with a new St. Louis stadium.

Um, what? If St. Louis indeed comes up with a lucrative new stadium offer (which they’re working on, and half a billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at) that convinces the NFL that it shouldn’t let the Rams move to L.A., then La Canfora speculates that Kroenke could refuse to accept it, because he wants to badly to move to L.A. — which he wouldn’t get to move to in this scenario anyway, but maybe could move to another city eventually, presumably if offered a lucrative stadium subsidy, like the one he’d be turning down in St. Louis to … I’m sorry, this plotline is way too convoluted to untangle. (There’s also a bit later on where La Canfora say that Kroenke could force the NFL to let him move — but not to L.A. — in order to open up St. Louis for a different team to move to. But really, let’s not go there.)

If there’s any takeaway from all this, it’s that it seems like NFL insiders are just as confused about what’s going to happen with the L.A. move gambit as the rest of us. Or that they’re having a tough time getting their story straight. Maybe Roger Goodell needs to hire a continuity supervisor.

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NFL to play two games a year on Tottenham Hotspur’s crazy hidden turf field

Looks like that Tottenham Hotspur retractable field — which would apparently actually be a retractable grass pitch over permanent fake turf, something that’s hard to picture, especially since there’s no obvious place for it to retract to, but anyway — has done the trick, as the Premier League club announced a deal yesterday to host two NFL games per year at its new London stadium, once it opens in 2018.

In exchange, Tottenham will get … hang on, there’s got to be something in the long statement that says what the NFL will be paying in rent or revenue sharing … nope, apparently not. But the NFL will provide Tottenham with something, in addition to the warm glow of hosting the kind of football that people in the UK don’t actually care about. (As my Vice collleague Aaron Gordon discovered last year, the Super Bowl got beat in the British TV ratings by both The Simpsons and a competitive tourism reality show called “Coach Trip.”)

Meanwhile, the new Tottenham deal has lots of folks speculating that this is the precursor to a full-time London NFL team soon, which it really isn’t, for all the reasons I went over back in April. For now, Tottenham just gets a bit of undisclosed cash, and the NFL gets some more chances to beat out Harry Shearer for the hearts and minds of the British public.

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Tottenham Hotspur proposes retractable field for NFL, London still isn’t getting NFL anytime soon

Tottenham Hotspur‘s owners have another idea for luring an NFL team to London, which involves a retractable fake-turf field and is only probably going to lead to London even further becoming L.A.’s eventual successor as idle relocation threat target for NFL teams, as I discuss in my debut for the Washington Post’s PostEverything op-ed site:

Without L.A. in play, NFL team owners would need to find a new bogeyman. Enter London. If the league plays its cards right, it can spend the next two decades dangling London as a threat to silence any U.S. stadium naysayers — while still using the distant promise of a team to plump up British interest in the NFL, in a kind of “watch us and we will come” strategy aimed at the 64 million bereft souls who have never known the joy of buying a $10 foam finger.

The rest of the essay explains why I don’t think London is an alluring target for NFL owners, and includes all the digs at American football culture and links to comedy routines that you’ve come to expect from posts here, only I actually get paid for it. So go read it already!

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London wants the NFL, but there are good reasons why the feeling may not be mutual

Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer (Best. Title. Ever.) George Osborne has promised to do “anything the government can do” to get an NFL team for London, which means of course that everybody is talking about when the NFL will put a team in London now. So, mission accomplished, mister chancellor of the exchequer!

The answer to “When will the NFL put a team in London?” meanwhile, is “Don’t hold your breath,” as Travis Waldron points out over at ThinkProgress:

Given existing concerns around moving a team to Europe, it is also possible — and probably more likely — that London has become the NFL’s next Los Angeles, a city used as a threat to hang over the heads of cities that it and its teams think need new stadiums…

There are myriad logistical issues standing as hurdles to such a move, including how to work bye weeks and address travel and competitive concerns. Where the team would play is also an unanswered question: while Wembley Stadium has made an attractive host thus far, it’s unclear whether a full NFL slate would fit into its schedule or its size, and it’s also less than certain that Premier League soccer club West Ham United would want to share the Olympic Stadium, a more suitably-sized venue that has been floated as a possibility.

But London is really huge, right? Wouldn’t any team jump at the chance to move there, assuming they got a stadium to play in and a vacuum train to get them there?

Possibly not, because of the strange finances of the NFL. Having high ticket demand is all well and good, but given that you only need to sell maybe 70,000 tickets eight times a year, a city the size of London is really overkill when it comes to creating enough ticket demand. Besides, in the NFL the real moneymaker is national TV revenue, and you can get a slice of that just by suiting up to have your heads bashed in. London, England, London, Ontario, London, Ohio — after factoring in TV money and revenue sharing, the amount of money you’ll make by operating a team there isn’t nearly as dramatically different as it would be in any other pro sport.

But wait a minute — wouldn’t putting a team in the UK be a terrific marketing opportunity for the NFL, and possibly lead to a lucrative new TV contract in Britain? Maybe so, but that’s for the NFL, not an individual team owner. If the league agreed to give a team relocating to London the lion’s share of UK TV money, perhaps, or otherwise compensated them for being the league’s European loss leader, then this might be able to work. But that would require complicated negotiations among all the teams to decide what’s fair, and even then you have to find an owner who’d rather be a guinea pig in London than to sit back in whatever U.S. burg they’re in and collect Fox checks. It could happen eventually, but probably not tomorrow.

London as a bogeyman for NFL move threats, though? That’s a no-brainer. Besides, as I told Waldron:

“The great thing about move threats like this is that they can work both ways,” said Neil deMause, who follows stadium development news at his site, (and has co-written a book by the same name). “If talking up London as a potential NFL site works to get interest from an existing owner or an expansion owner, then great. Suddenly you’ve got interest, and a few years down the road, if it works out, then you can move ahead with it.

“If it doesn’t, then it’s still great, because you’ve talked about London so much that other teams can use it as a threat. It’s exactly how it’s worked with Los Angeles.”

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NFL in “talks” to “possibly” bring team to London, say “sources”

Apparently it’s crazy unsourced rumor week in the sports press, because right after the Daily Mirror’s 75,000-seat David Beckham Miami soccer stadium report, Fox Sports jumped in with a claim that the NFL is seriously considering moving the Jacksonville Jaguars to London:

The NFL’€™s International Committee is involved in talks to bring a franchise, perhaps the Jacksonville Jaguars, to London, possibly as soon as 2017, sources told… has learned that the Olympic Stadium is being configured to work for different seating capacities for futbol and football. The retractable seating will enable greater attendance for soccer matches, while football will be significantly less.

So “sources” say there are “talks,” huh? Given that the whole purpose of the NFL International Committee is to have talks about such things, this is hardly surprising. But Is there any sign that these talks are actually close to putting a team (“perhaps the Jaguars”) in Wembley Stadium? (Scroll, scroll.) Nope.

Look, I’ve been one of the first to say that because of the NFL’s unique financial structure — every team in the league is rich from day one thanks to the national TV revenues that are shared among all 32 owners — you could put a team in Kuala Lumpur or on the moon and, so long as you had a lucrative enough stadium lease, make lots of money. And surely the NFL knows that a team in London would help get more lucrative American football TV contracts in the UK, which would help make those rich owners even richer.

But even for a sport that plays once a week, lugging two teams across the ocean, to a time zone offset by five hours from the U.S. east coast and eight hours from California, is hardly a trivial matter. And that “teams can play anywhere” cuts both ways: If you could get them to build a stadium, a team owner could just as easily put an NFL team in the other London and make money on the deal — it might not help the league’s international marketing as much, but that’s not an individual owner’s concern.

Getting the UK’s interest in American football up by alluding to them maybe getting a team, though, that’s the kind of thing that’s right up the NFL’s alley. And it certainly can’t hurt to have U.S. cities fearing that their team will leave for London if they’re unhappy at home. Enough talk like this, and maybe the league won’t need Los Angeles to kick around anymore.

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Tottenham said to be considering NFL-ready stadium, according to legendarily unreliable newspaper

This was reported in the Daily Mail, the British tabloid that once won an award for “worst misrepresentation of a scientific article in a national newspaper,” so major grains of salt, but: The owners of the London-based Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly looking into building a new 65,000-seat stadium that would be able to be converted to football, thus giving them the ability to play host to a London NFL franchise.

The Mail reports — citing “sources” — that “it is understood that plans being drawn up for the Premier League outfit may include a sliding pitch to protect the playing surface for when it is used for NFL matches.” Which is pretty handwavy even for unattributed stadium plans, but given that we’re talking about an NFL team that so far exists only in the mind of London NFL boosters, it’s probably about as should be expected.

In the meantime, let’s just enjoy this awesome rendering of now-scrapped earlier plans for a Tottenham stadium, just because a building with “NAMING RIGHTS” stenciled on the roof is the perfect image for our sports era.

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