Saturday, June 30, 2012

If L.A. move will happen in 2013, Chargers are the most likely to go

If the NFL plans to return to Los Angeles in 2013, there’s only one team that can pull it off. The Chargers. A comparison of Sam Farmer’s Friday item in the Los Angeles Times regarding Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent memo on the possibility of a move as soon as 2013 with the NFL’s relocation policy (a copy of which PFT has obtained) with the realities of the various stadium and ownership situations reveals that the San Diego Chargers (who actually spent their initial season in Los Angeles, losing the AFL title game to the Oilers) are the only team that currently can pull off a move by next year. The Rams can’t leave St. Louis at the earliest until after the 2014 season.

The Jaguars must demonstrate three straight years of losses before being able to exit Jacksonville. The Raiders’ lease situation is irrelevant, because (as we’ve previously reported) the league won’t allow them to move to L.A. unless Mark Davis sells controlling interest in the team. So that leaves the Chargers, who have an annual window to cancel their Qualcomm Stadium lease, from February 1 through April 30, with a buyout that decreases each year. (For 2012, the cost was a mere $23 million, $2 million less than what Jaguars owner Shad Khan would have to pay former owner Wayne Weaver if the Jags move before 2017.) The Chargers’ three-month escape hatch overlaps by 15 days with the league’s relocation policy, which requires notice of an intention to move to be filed with the league office between January 1 and February 15.

The relocation policy also requires a team that hopes to move “to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories, and to operate in a manner that maximizes fan support in their current home community.” Relocation is appropriate only “[i]f, having diligently engaged in good faith efforts, a club concludes that it cannot obtain a satisfactory resolution of its stadium needs.” In other words, a team can’t move without showing that it has exhausted all reasonable efforts to stay put. It won’t be hard for the Chargers to demonstrate that they’ve tried to work things out in their current home.

After all, the Commissioner has publicly said that “unfortunately, some sense of a growing impasse and an absence of a sense of urgency” exist regarding efforts to build a new venue in San Diego. The Commissioner who said that was Paul Tagliabue. The year in which he said it was 2004. Then there’s the fact that San Diego will be picking a new mayor in November. Earlier this month, a preliminary election narrowed the field for the looming runoff to two candidates: Republican Carl DeMaio and Democrat Bob Filner. Both oppose using public money to build a new Chargers stadium. DeMaio says that fixing streets and restoring services remains a bigger priority, and Filner doesn’t want to subsidize a billionaire without partial ownership of the team by the city, something that the league would never allow. So the handwriting is on the wall, San Diego. If any NFL team is going to be in Los Angeles by 2013, it’s the Chargers who will be, well, bolting.

author: Mike Florio
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