Rams Cancel Plans For London Games; Front Office Looks To Ease Fans' Fear Of Relocation
The Rams have “canceled” their planned ‘13 and ‘14 games in London and will “instead play them in St. Louis,” according to a front-page piece by Logan & Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Rams Exec COO & VP/Football Operations Kevin Demoff said that the move is “designed to soothe fears that the Rams are looking to leave St. Louis, even as negotiations that are key to their future here heat up.” Demoff: “I hope at future points we'll be able to play in London. This was just not the right timing for our organization and for our fans.” He added that the team “made the decision -- with the agreement of NFL officials -- because it wants to send the right message: that the Rams are serious about finding a solution to a stadium upgrade in St. Louis.” Logan & Thomas note amid the stadium talks, the “prospect of the Rams playing three ‘home’ games over three years in Wembley Stadium in London … rankled some fans in St. Louis, who worry [Owner Stan] Kroenke might bolt for a bigger market if he doesn't get his way on the Dome.” Demoff and CVC President Kathleen Ratcliffe said that there was “no direct connection between the lease deal and canceling the London games.” Ratcliffe said that this is “not a quid pro quo” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/14). NFL Senior VP/Int’l Chris Parsons said, “We appreciate the Rams support for our international growth strategy. We are currently working to add a second game in the UK, potentially for the 2013 season, in response to the growth in popularity of our sport. We hope to finalize these plans in the months ahead” (SBNATION.com, 8/13).
PULSE OF THE FANS: Demoff said that the Rams’ decision “wasn’t made in an effort to spur ticket sales.” Demoff: “We had a very good renewal rate (on season tickets). That wasn't the issue. The sponsors have come up; we have greater sponsorship numbers this year than last year. This was not based on any feedback we got at the box office, or fiscally.” He added, “This was based off of really taking the pulse of our fan base and understanding that they were confused about why we were going to London for multiple years.” In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes the Rams had “sold about 40,000 season tickets” as of the start of training camp. Demoff said of the timing of the announcement in relation to the team's lease deal and First Tier stadium process, "We're not as far along in the first-tier process that we had hoped. ... From everything I hear we're on track for an arbitration that'll start sometime kind of in the middle of the season” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/14).
HITTING THE RESET BUTTON: In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes the Rams' playing in London "just wasn't worth the time, aggravation or expense.” Issues included the "potential loss of ticket sales from some skeptical season-ticket holders who are nervous that their team might be short-timers in St. Louis, plus the added expenses of paying local stadium workers for missed wages for that one lost home game.” This was a “strategic re-boot philosophically for the Rams, because in terms of their overall business plan, everything leads us to their ultimate goal, which is finding the best way to put this football team in a new state-of-the-art stadium in the near future” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/14). ESPN.com’s Mike Sando wrote, “This was a good move for the team on the field." The decision also was "helpful in countering perceptions that the Rams, currently mired in a stadium arbitration process, had one eye on the horizon and a foot out the door” (ESPN.com, 8/13).