For reference on this topic, see this post written by Vincent Bonsignore of the L.A. Daily News.
Let's get this out of the way right now.
Regretfully, this stadium mess isn't about what I want, or about what any of you want.
This is about business. More specifically, leverage. Leverage is best defined in this instance as: Power or ability to act or to influence people, events, decisions, etc. Leverage comes with having options. The ability to refuse a deal because a better alternative is available. This is something San Diego could use a little more of when dealing with the Chargers.
And San Diego's best option for leveraging the Chargers is to have a conversation with Mark Davis.
Author's Note: I first broached this possibility in early June, just as the Chargers and San Diego began their negotiations.
The LA Stadium Quest. Who Has Leverage?
Like I said above, leverage comes from having options. So, let's take a look at all of the players, and see if we can determine who has leverage over whom. Much of this is speculation on my part.
The Rams / Stan Kroenke:
Hold the most leverage. The Inglewood Stadium project appears to be the front-runner in Los Angeles, because it will be ready at least 1 year earlier than Carson. Kroenke has much more money and resources at his disposal than any other owner attempting to secure a place in Los Angeles. He also is in position to dictate stadium terms to St. Louis, should the Rams somehow stay in Missouri, because he is on a year-to-year lease. Lastly, if there's a competition for the 2nd spot in Inglewood, Kroenke has leverage over both the Raiders and Chargers.
Holds significant leverage. The NFL has the unique ability to force all other people to reach a desired result, to a point. However, their process is being driven by Kroenke's Inglewood Stadium project, which can break ground in December.
The Chargers / Dean Spanos:
Have some leverage, primarily due to Dean Spanos' reputation among other owners in the NFL. Further, the Carson Stadium project is viable enough to force the NFL to take into consideration potential damage to his franchise - likely by forcing Kroenke to give him favorable terms should he choose to move to Inglewood, or compensation for abandoning efforts in Los Angeles. He also has leverage over San Diego, in that until Carson is dead, no offer San Diego makes is good enough to keep them around.
The Raiders / Mark Davis:
Have no leverage. They are at the mercy of the Rams or Chargers as it pertains to Los Angeles. They have no leverage over Oakland because Oakland and Alameda County have both repeatedly refused to consider putting any public money on the table towards a new stadium in the East Bay. Mark Davis is not independently wealthy and cannot simply strike out on his own to make a deal without public assistance.
Has minuscule leverage, primarily because they have no interest in putting money on the table. However, Mark Davis has repeatedly said he wants to stay in Oakland.
Has slight leverage. No deal they offer is better than the Inglewood Stadium project. However, their stadium offer is the most advanced. On the other side, they have no other potential team. Dean Spanos has not expressed interest in St. Louis, and Mark Davis has rejected the possibility of playing in St. Louis.
Has slight leverage, only in that Dean Spanos wants to make sure San Diego is in his back pocket in the event he doesn't get Carson and/or doesn't want to play in Inglewood. They also have a made an initial stadium pitch to the Chargers.
So the question becomes how can San Diego's increase their leverage? And the answer is easy. Do what Dean Spanos did, and bring Mark Davis on board as a potential partner in case events don't unfold to your liking.
The Case For Making an Offer to Mark Davis
It's a better stadium deal for San Diego in terms of the money and financing. Davis has said he prefers a smaller stadium, with less luxury boxes and club seats. The stadium he wants in Oakland is projected to cost about $900 million. Davis has pledged to put $300 million in, along with another $200 million from the NFL's G4 Stadium Loan program.
That leaves a $400 million gap.
I'd also like to add that Davis' $500 million offer is $100 million better than anything Spanos has offered.
Now, look back at San Diego's initial offer to the Chargers a couple weeks ago. A $1.1 billion stadium, with $375 million in public financing.
Yes, you read that right. A stadium for the Raiders could be cheaper by $200 million. In such an instance, the $400 million in public financing Davis has asked for is only $25 million off San Diego's initial offer to the Chargers.
There's a very easy, very quick deal to be made there, financially speaking.
Remember in the section above, I said San Diego has little leverage because the Chargers have all of the options. Well, having the Raiders as a backup option which makes more financial sense than anything the Chargers have offered gives San Diego more leverage. It allows San Diego to say to Dean Spanos "Why should we deal with you? Our backup option is financially better than anything you've offered us, and frankly, we're tired of getting played."
In fact, I'd argue that San Diego city leaders have already begun considering this, based on the cryptic answer given by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith in this interview with Mighty 1090's Darren Smith on July 15th.
I think Spanos blithely assumes (or hopes) a significant group of Chargers fans would continue rooting for the team if they move to Los Angeles. That assumption rests on another assumption - San Diego football fans have no other option.
In essence, if the Chargers joined Kroenke in Inglewood, they'd be chasing 25% of their fanbase (defined in this case as people who purchase season tickets) and leaving 75% of their fanbase behind. With no other option in San Diego, I'd guess (this is completely speculative) anywhere from 50%-75% would follow the team, while they might lose 25%-50% of whatever fans they have in Los Angeles.
That means in moving to Inglewood, the Chargers keep only 50%-75% of their current fanbase. In exchange for moving to Los Angeles, I think Spanos is willing to take that hit. His gamble is that the team can stay competitive and draw well (which makes Philip Rivers' recent extension a bargain) long enough to establish themselves as a brand, especially against Rams and Raiders teams which haven't won anything in over a decade.
With those numbers in mind (Yes, yes, I know the BFTB poll is unscientific), take a look at these results from the poll Richard ran on Friday.
Figure 1 - BFTB Poll Results, as of 12:25 on 8/22/15
Courting the Raiders changes that dynamic completely. Again, he loses 25%-50% of his LA fanbase, and then completely loses about 75% of his San Diego fanbase, with 37% those fans switching to his biggest on-field rival.
If this poll is even remotely representative of San Diego Chargers fans, it should give Dean Spanos a moment of pause. He might end up in Los Angeles, but that's about all he would get. He would be the #3 team in his own market (as the Raiders would only be 100 miles to the south), and completely lose the market where he was unquestionably #1.
That's a steep price to pay for going to Los Angeles.
Has anyone noticed how miserable Seattle basketball fans are, not only in having Clay Bennett hijack the SuperSonics and move them to Oklahoma City? They've now been used twice as leverage by other markets - Sacramento and Milwaukee - to get new arenas built.
No one in San Diego wants to be used the way the NBA is using Seattle (or the way the NFL has used Los Angeles over the last 20 years).
The best way to prevent that from happening is to have multiple options on the table.
Like I said at the top, I don't want the Raiders to come to San Diego.
But, given the circumstances, it makes all the sense in the world for San Diego to make an offer to Mark Davis, conditional on the Chargers going to Los Angeles and the Raiders being unable to get a deal in Oakland and being shut out of Los Angeles. Based on what Davis wants, San Diego could make him a legitimate offer.
Yes, it will piss the Chargers (and possibly the NFL) off. But guess what? Teams play cities off each other all the time. Where does it say a city can't do the same thing?
This allows San Diego options, which in turn increases their leverage if negotiations with the Chargers start again.
Dean Spanos will not like the idea of having the Raiders come to San Diego and "cannibalize" his old market, and therefore might think twice about just how badly he needs to go to Los Angeles.