Los Angeles is back in fashion for NFL owners but not so much for fans
St Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are the three teams who are keen to move to Southern California
It’s money time in the NFL. The postseason is upon us with 12 teams vying for the right to play in the 50th Super Bowl on February 8, the golden anniversary of the golden child and how apropos that will be.
We will hear endless yarns about the stars that step up, the clutch performers who are money players. And, superficially at least, that may be true because the postseason is known as money time.
But the players down on the field are merely nickel and dimers compared to the true money performers, the guys who deal in billions not millions.
It’s always money time for NFL owners and designated cash-machine commissioner Roger Goodell. This past week three teams, the St Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, wasted no time in submitting relocation applications requesting the right to play the 2016 season in Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the US and a region that has been without a team since the Ram and Raiders both left in 1994.
Twenty years ago the NFL couldn’t get out of town fast enough and today a procession of snake-oil salesmen are salivating to get back in because among the 19 million people now living in the greater Los Angeles area, apparently the majority of recent arrivals are huge NFL fans.
When NFL owners meet next week to vote on which teams to move to Los Angeles they will tell us it is merely to satiate the overwhelming mass of fans who have spent the previous 20 years pleading for a franchise.
Well, not quite. There has hardly been a groundswell in LA for an NFL team and many locals are of the mind that they are better off without the civic extortionists masquerading as NFL owners.
They are intimately aware of the fact that for the past 20 years the NFL has used the threat of moving teams to LA to get local governments in other cities to build massive publicly financed stadiums for massively wealthy owners. For the league to take that bogeyman out of play it won’t be cheap.
Twenty years ago the Rams moved from Los Angeles to St Louis and who in their right mind moves a team from the second biggest metropolitan area in the US to the 19th? There are 16 million more people in the LA region than St Louis.
However, Georgia Frontiere, a former chorus girl whose sixth husband was then Rams owner Carrol Rosenbloom, inherited the team when Rosenbloom mysteriously drowned in 1979. Originally from St Louis, Frontiere let the Rams mire in mediocrity while pinching pennies and banking millions.
The community was rightfully alienated and when St Louis, which had lost its football Cardinals to Arizona seven years earlier, approached Frontiere with a sweetheart deal it was adios muchaco for LA.
The Rams were the first US professional sporting franchise west of the Mississippi when they left Cleveland for LA in 1946 and were a Southern California staple for five decades. Today, Rams owner Stan Kroenke explicitly stated in his application to relocate to LA that St Louis is better off as a two-sport town with the Cardinals (baseball) and Blues (hockey) and is not equipped to support an NFL team.
“Any NFL Club that signs on to this (new) proposal in St Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the league will be harmed,” it read while also citing St Louis ranks 61st out of 64 major cities in recent economic growth and has the lowest population growth of any major US city.
Kroenke also neglects to mention that while the St Louis Rams ranked 29th in valuation at US$1.45 billion, more than double what he paid to buy the remainder of the team six years ago, the valuation will increase by at least a billion dollars in LA and who leaves a billion dollars on the table? Certainly not the NFL, despite the fact that they will have to play in old stadiums while waiting for LA to build a new mega palace.
Meanwhile, the Chargers and Raiders are looking to share a new mega palace of their own in LA. But even the NFL won’t put three teams in LA so look for the Rams move to be approved because they most certainly have burned every bridge in St Louis, while Oakland and San Diego fight it out in court for the right to desert their fans.
Got it? Good, because the NFL would very much like you to enjoy the upcoming play-offs and Super Bowl, unless of course you live in St Louis, San Diego or Oakland.