On Monday, the Los Angeles Times received a copy of a memo from the NFL League office regarding a potential relocation of teams to Los Angeles. In this memo, the league essentially re-asserts its power to determine which teams end up moving to the second-largest television and population market in the United States.
The memo also names a Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, which includes the following NFL Team Owners
- Clark Hunt - Kansas City Chiefs.
- Robert Kraft - New England Patriots.
- John Mara - New York Giants.
- Bob McNair - Houston Texans.
- Jerry Richardson - Carolina Panthers.
- Art Rooney II - Pittsburgh Steelers.
This Committee is charged with the following tasks:
"evaluate the various stadium options available in Los Angeles, oversee the application of the relocation guidelines in the event that one or more clubs see k to move to Los Angeles, ensure proper coordination with other standing committees... and confirm that all steps taken in Los Angeles are consistent with the Constitution and Bylaws and NFL policies."
While the NFL quietly applauded Kroenke's Inglewood proposal, his proposal also leaves the league with very little leverage. Kroenke has the kind of money that could fight (and win) a protracted battle with the NFL over relocation, and ultimately the league's ability to lay fines, or assess an exorbitant relocation fee wouldn't matter much. Really, the only leverage the league might have is to affect the Rams competitive abilities (such as loss of draft picks).
Secondly, this memo is designed to buy time for St.Louis and Missouri to come up with a viable stadium alternative to the Edward Jones Dome. Remember, the NFL's bylaws require a franchise to demonstrate that there are no options in their existing city prior to seeking relocation. If St. Louis and Missouri get a viable plan on the table, the Rams would likely have to at least wait for a public vote before leaving St. Louis.
So, how does this affect the Chargers?
First, by reiterating their commitment to retaining control of the relocation process, the NFL is telling Dean Spanos that if he can marshal the votes to block a move, the NFL will respect that process. While Spanos can't fight the move forever (especially if the Committee determines the Inglewood project is the NFL's best Los Angeles option) the league is creating some leverage for him to use.
Further, this buys Spanos (and the NFL) more time to broker a deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group for the proposed Farmers Field project in downtown Los Angeles - which has been the NFL's preferred option. As has been the case since 2010, all that's held up the deal is the Spanos family giving up a controlling interest in the Chargers, which they've been loath to do. Further, because the Spanos family's greatest source of wealth is the Chargers (their estimated net worth is $1.2 billion, with the Chargers worth about $1 billion), they would be more likely to accept whatever terms the NFL laid out for them.
The memo could also be viewed as an implicit guarantee that Spanos will be taken care of if the Rams indeed move to Los Angeles, either with additional assistance getting a stadium in San Diego or guaranteeing them a place as the Rams co-tenants; Kroenke recently backtracked on his previous statements that he would be unwilling to have a co-tenant in Los Angeles.
It also increases the heat on the Stadium Group in San Diego to get a ballot ready proposal in place before the end of the 2015 Regular Season, and ready for 1 or 2 cracks at a vote in 2016. The Chargers and the NFL clearly believe they've given San Diego enough time to get a deal done.
This memo is an attempt by the NFL to reassert control over the Los Angeles market, and increase the leverage Spanos has against both Kroenke and San Diego. The NFL is not fully comfortable with a powerful owner like Kroenke in Los Angeles until and unless they have no other option.
As long as St. Louis remains in play, and as long as the NFL has a franchise they can use as a bargaining chip, the NFL will continue to seek out a Los Angeles solution on the NFL's terms.