Sports Football


‘Major war’ on over NFL’s return to L.A.

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

An artist's rendition, provided by MANICA Architecture, is shown of the proposed football stadium on property in Carson, Cal., February 20, 2015. (REUTERS/MANICA Architecture/Handout via Reuters)

An artist's rendition, provided by MANICA Architecture, is shown of the proposed football stadium on property in Carson, Cal., February 20, 2015. (REUTERS/MANICA Architecture/Handout via Reuters)


The NFL’s Battle for L.A. is on. Only “battle” might not be the right word for it.

“It’s a war — a major war,” one plugged-in source said.

But you’d never get that impression from the smiling, polite tones of owners and executives Monday at the Arizona Biltmore resort.

At a late-morning session on Day 1 of the NFL annual meeting, a presentation by NFL executive vice-president Eric Grubman updated owners on where things stand with regard to Los Angeles.

Returning a franchise to L.A. finally is a front-burner matter. Three clubs have expressed a desire to relocate there, tied to competing stadium plans.

In January, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke partnered with Stockbridge Capital Group. The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that Kroenke and Stockbridge have schematic plans for a futuristic, privately financed, 80,000-seat, $1.86-billion stadium in Inglewood.

Kroenke is the NFL’s third-richest owner according to Forbes, with a net worth of $6.3 billion.

In an attempt not to be outdone, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced last month they’re in cahoots to relocate to a snazzy new stadium planned for the L.A. suburb of Carson, with that city’s hearty backing.

Commissioner Roger Goodell last month formed a committee on L.A. that includes power owners Robert Kraft (Patriots), Bob McNair (Texans) and John Mara (Giants).

The last time L.A. had an NFL team was 1994, after which the Rams and Raiders relocated to their current homes.

Both the Chargers (owned by Alex Spanos) and Raiders (owned by Mark Davis, son of Al) play in stadiums built in the 1960s, the oldest in the AFC.

Both teams for years had gotten nowhere trying to convince local authorities to commit significant public-sector funding to either replace or significantly upgrade their outdated stadiums. Ditto with the Rams in St. Louis, with their 20-year-old stadium.

But now — tada! — politicians in all three markets are mounting rushed, invigorated efforts to keep their NFL clubs, dangling promises of a shiny new stadium.

No one knows the league’s preference. No club has the right to relocate without approval of at least 23 other owners.

“I really believe that within the next year we’ll have two teams in this (L.A.) market,” Kraft told a scrum of reporters. “We have some real good options. Now we’ll see what happens with the end game.”

Kroenke and his dazzling stadium would seem to have a substantial leg up.

“The Rams are flying high right now,” a source in the franchise-relocation business told QMI Agency recently, “but I guarantee you the Rams will not fly high all the way through.

“I’ve never seen anything go so far, so smoothly, as Kroenke’s plan with Inglewood. But at some point it’s going to get ugly — guaranteed.”

No decision on L.A. is expected before the fall.

In an interview with several reporters after Monday’s meetings, Grubman told QMI the league has informed politicians in St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego they don’t have until next Jan. 1 to Feb. 15 (the usual window for NFL teams to file relocation intentions).

But giving the locals up to another half-year to mount credible counter-offers could make a messy situation (of one or two franchises relocating) even messier. Grubman said he doesn’t look at it that way.

“I would take that all day long,” Grubman told QMI, “because our job is to do everything we can to make a team successful, and give everybody all the tools necessary, to make it successful in its home market.

“Our job is to not rip teams out. It’s to keep them there and make sure they can be successful. It’s also to develop new markets that have substantial potential. So that is a really high-class problem that we’ll figure out how to navigate through.

“It means someone’s not going to get exactly what they want, but it also means there are healthy markets — and that’s the name of the game.”

Kraft said the league is determined not to proceed recklessly.

“I think we have to be very careful and responsible to different markets that step up (with new stadium plans),” he said.

And if one is St. Louis?

“I think we have a responsibility to make sure we have a team in that market,” Kraft said.

“From my point of view, if they come up with a plan that looks pretty good and a strong financial package, I think we the NFL — in my opinion — have to have a team in St. Louis ... But they have to be able to support the team.”

Grubman said the league will now investigate over the next 6-8 weeks exactly what the St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland markets plan to offer.

But, as I asked Kraft, what if all three markets step up? Is there any chance no team relocates to L.A.?

“Somehow, I feel that we’ll have at least one team in L.A.,” Kraft said.

Perhaps what’s most intriguing about the process behind the scenes is that the owners’ decision might come down to a popularity contest: Kroenke vs. Spanos/Davis. Insiders say the notoriously aloof Kroenke has a helluva lot of work to do in that regard.

However the L.A. dominos fall, the vacated market(s) won’t acquire a new team via expansion. Grubman said as much, as did Kraft.

“I don’t see expansion being an option,” Kraft said. “So any community that’s privileged to have a team? Love ’em up.”



Owner Mark Davis told QMI Agency Monday he’s “cautiously optimistic” a deal can be struck to keep his Raiders in Oakland, to scotch a relocation to Los Angeles.

I asked Davis if he’s now optimistic a deal can be done with local municipalities to replace five-decade old Coliseum.

“I’m always optimistic — cautiously optimistic, let me put it that way,” he said.

The Raiders are in league with the San Diego Chargers in a plan to jointly relocate to Los Angeles and play at a new stadium in Carson. The St. Louis Rams aim to relocate to Inglewood and play in a planned new stadium there.

“Well, there are two great sites, there are three teams,” Davis said. “And all three teams are still working in their current markets trying to get something done, and we’ll see what happens.”


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