As the NFL moves into the last week of the regular season and marches on to the playoffs it is the time of year that Angelinos begin to wonder when it may be their turn to once again experience professional playoff football.
It is becoming more apparent that Roger Goodell and the NFL owners are moving forward with their plan to permanently place a team in the most famous city in England, especially considering they have been expanding the number of games played in London every year. Across the pond and across the country the city of Los Angeles is still awaiting word from a team that they would like to move to the City of Angels and instantly make themselves BILLIONS of dollars.
The questions about the future of the NFL are abundant. Obviously there are questions about the sustainability of the league long-term but for now the NFL owners are trying to capitalize on their success as much as possible, which is why London and Los Angeles should be getting NFL teams in the near future. But questions remain: which city will get a team first? Which city is more viable for an NFL team? Which teams are most likely to move? Is expansion an option? We will attempt to answer all of these questions below.
The biggest reason that the NFL is ready to come back to Los Angeles doesn’t have anything to do with the NFL at all. The sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in which Guggenheim Partners bought the team at a record $2.15 billion dollars, certainly caught the eyes of the NFL owners and the league office.
There is no doubt that the league wants to be back in Los Angeles at some point in the very near future. Simply put, there is just way too much money being left on the table by not having a team in the country’s second biggest market. Moreover, plenty of franchises are almost out of time on their current stadium leases and a move to Los Angeles is incredibly enticing.
Assuming that the city of Los Angeles and the NFL can finally figure out a stadium plan, which has been the biggest thorn in the side of the relocation process, the city should have a team in the next couple of seasons. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena just underwent a massive renovation and has been approved by the city and the league as a viable option to host an NFL team until a stadium can be built in the area.
Here is the kicker for NFL owners wanting to move to Los Angeles: the team moving would almost certainly be worth almost a BILLION dollars more by simply moving to one of the best sports cities in the country. On top of that, it seems likely that if one team moves to Los Angeles, another would follow soon after. That is how valuable the LA market is for a sports franchise.
Until that point when a team decides to move, Los Angeles will continue to be the reason that more teams receive public funding for lavish new stadiums in their current markets. The threat of moving to Los Angeles has already produced stadium deals for the Vikings and Falcons and should help the Chargers secure a new home field in San Diego. It is inevitable that an NFL franchise will move to Los Angeles. For now the questions remain about which location will eventually hold an NFL stadium and which team is likely to make the bold and lucrative step first.
Upon initial review it would seem very unlikely that London would be a viable option for an NFL franchise. There are very legitimate concerns that will have to be addressed. They are, but not limited to:
- Cost of living
- Tax implications for players, coaches, staff, front office
- Time Zone issues
- Contractual imbalances
While all of these issues are very real and would have to be dealt with by the owners and players association in CBA negotiations, it does not take away from the fact that London and the European market are potentially massive business opportunities. On top of that, London has an NFL Stadium ready to go this minute.
All of this adds up to the fact that London will indeed have an NFL franchise in the next decade or so. Simply put, there is just too much money to be left on the table for the NFL not to take it. Andrew Brandt, the former team executive and player agent who now writes for SI.com and the MMQB, wrote an amazing piece detailing his time with the World Football League and the initial NFL expansion into Europe. He also goes into great detail about how the NFL will be able to put a team in London and how the players and owners will work out the issues surrounding the NFL in London.
The most interesting part of Brandt’s article revolves around the idea that the London franchise would also have a home in the United States for training camps, or at least part of training camps, offseason training, and for practices during multiple week road trips to the United States. Not only do I think this is a good idea, I think it is probable and something that the London franchise would absolutely need in its arsenal.
At the end of the day you need a team to commit to London and for the league and its players to agree on the issues that loom over any potential move. It is happening quickly. Don’t be surprised if the NFL decides to put a team in Los Angeles and London in the same season.
Which teams will move?
As of right now there are four NFL franchises that have explored a move to the Los Angeles area, even though those explorations have not been made public. Those teams are the Raiders, Chargers, Rams and Jaguars. Interestingly enough, three of those teams have called Los Angeles home previously.
I would not be surprised at all to see two teams move to wherever the hell they build the new Los Angeles football stadium. The potential sites right now are LA Live, Hollywood Park, Dodger Stadium and the City of Industry. I would venture to guess that LA Live and Hollywood Park are the two most viable candidates based on the fact that LA Live already has all the permits to build and the NFL has circled Hollywood Park for 20 plus years.
The team that is going to come to LA in the next few years will be playing at the Rose Bowl. I believe that the first team to occupy the infamous stadium in Pasadena will be the Raiders. I think that the Chargers will get the stadium they desire in San Diego and that the Rams will follow the Raiders back to Los Angeles when the new stadium in ready. The Jaguars move on to our next city.
There is no question that the Jaguars are the team that is most likely to move to London. Not only does Jacksonville have a terrible fan base, and god-awful stadium, but also it is in possibly the worst market in the NFL. Jacksonville, and Florida in general, is a graveyard for professional sports franchises. The only way to maintain a successful franchise in the state is to be a mainstay, aka the Dolphins, or to have transcendent superstars, aka the Miami Heat.
Name another franchise in Florida that works. It’s okay, I’ll wait. There isn’t an answer. The Jaguars new owner, Shahid Kahn, is a shrewd businessman and knows that he has an opportunity to buy incredible low with the Jags, move them to London, and instantly transform them into one of the most valuable properties in league. Khan also happens to own Fulham of the English Premier League.
The Jags, who could become something like the London Fogs, would keep their training facility in Jacksonville, an enjoyable place to spend a week or two, and would split training camp between Florida and England, as well as have it as a place to train during those multiple week road trips.
I believe that Khan and the NFL think this move is a no-brainer from a business perspective and will move forward with plans to work on this move with the other NFL owners and the players association.
Ideally, the NFL would not like to expand at all. The idea of splitting revenues more ways, paying more owners, and not eliminating the bottom barrel markets does not appeal to owners in any fashion. What they would like to do is take away two or three of their worst performing markets (i.e. St. Louis, Jacksonville, Oakland) and put those franchises in a place where they could maximize the amount of money coming into the league.
While expansion is certainly on the table because of how badly the league wants to expand into Los Angeles and London, I do not believe it is going to happen. The Raiders, Rams and Jaguars have too much to gain by moving to these massive media markets.
I am of the belief that the Oakland Raiders will once again become the Los Angeles Raiders by, at latest, the beginning of the 2016 NFL season. The Rams potential move back to LA would only happen when the new LA stadium was fully constructed and ready for business. The reason the Raiders would like to move to LA as soon as possible is twofold. One, the Raiders would like to be the first team back in town as to grab as much of the market as possible.
The second reason is that they need to find a new stadium and the Rose Bowl is a significant upgrade from the piece of trash O.co Coliseum in Oakland, or whatever the same of the stadium is now. Welcome back to the NFL the Los Angeles Raiders and the Los Angeles Rams.
While the league seems to be working only within the infrastructure of the NFL right now to build support and put pieces in place to make a run at a London franchise, believe me they are making arrangements all over the place. While I don’t believe the Jags are going to up and move this second, I do believe that they will be in London by the end of the decade. The biggest hurdle to jump is the CBA that isn’t up until 2020.
The league will need to be able to sort all of the issues out with the players union and adjust the recently signed CBA accordingly. This move isn’t going to happen overnight but it should be on everybody’s radar because like it or not, it is going to happen. Welcome to the league the London Fogs.