LOS ANGELES: The fate of three NFL teams hoping to relocate to Los Angeles is expected to be decided this week as team owners meet for a crucial vote which could end the sport’s two-decade absence from the city.
Three teams — the St Louis Rams, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders — are all hoping to persuade the 32 owners of the NFL to vote in favor of their applications to move to Los Angeles.
The most popular sport in America has been a notable absentee from the nation’s second biggest media market since 1994, when the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders played their last games in the city.
The Rams left for St Louis, lured by the prospect of a new taxpayer-funded stadium, while the Raiders returned to their Bay Area home in northern California after just over a decade in Los Angeles.
However the Rams, owned by the billionaire Stan Kroenke, are bidding to return to Los Angeles where they are planning a new 70,000-capacity stadium in Inglewood with a reported price tag of more than $2 billion.
The Chargers and Raiders meanwhile have tabled a proposal to cohabit in a new $1.75 billion stadium in the south Los Angeles suburb of Carson.
How the NFL owners vote when they meet in Houston on Tuesday and Wednesday remains shrouded in mystery.
However a report issued to all 32 NFL teams on Saturday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell increased the probability that one or more teams will be heading to the City of Angels in time for next season.
Goodell’s memo concluded that existing stadiums in Oakland, St Louis and San Diego were “unsatisfactory and inadequate” for NFL standards, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Proposed solutions designed to keep the three teams in their current locations were also deemed not viable, the Times report said.
Goodell said officials in each city had “ample opportunity but did not develop their proposals sufficiently to ensure the retention of its NFL team.”
The NFL report also revealed that market research conducted on the league’s behalf had concluded Los Angeles could support two teams — a finding that raises the prospect of one team facing disappointment.
A twist to the saga emerged last week with multiple reports stating that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had proposed a deal which would see the Rams and the Chargers share the new stadium being planned by Kroenke’s group.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos had rejected a stadium share with the Rams last month, rejecting overtures from Kroenke in a terse two-paragraph letter to Los Angeles officials.
“Nothing in Stan’s letter gives me any reason to reconsider my partnership with (Raiders owner) Mark Davis and our chosen stadium site,” Spanos said.
However NFL owners are reportedly lukewarm about approving the Raiders return to Los Angeles, and support amongst team bosses for a joint Rams-Chargers deal was growing according to a Los Angeles Times report.
For a move to be approved, bidding teams need to obtain 24 votes from the 32 owners to be successful.
If there is a deadlock a decision could still be postponed for up to a year, but analysts believe that is unlikely.