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Volume 22 No. 39
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NFL studies tighter period for relocation bids

The NFL is discussing shortening the time period during which teams can submit relocation bids to avoid having them emerge during the playoffs, according to multiple sources.

The issue carries greater resonancy now with two teams, the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders, soon free of their leases, and talk rampant that the league’s two-decade-old quest to return to Los Angeles is heating up.

The Rams’ lease with the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis expires after this season.
Currently, teams must submit any relocation proposal to the league between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, a window set several years ago by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. That period may now shrink to a Feb. 2 to Feb. 15 time frame, pushing it past this year’s playoff slate. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 1.

“It never made sense to me that the window to apply for relocation began right at the start of the playoffs,” said Amy Trask, the former Raiders CEO and current CBS Sports Network analyst. “I understand why the league would want to take away the distraction of a relocation application, or applications, during arguably what is the most exciting part of the football season.”

While a team’s relocation to Los Angeles might seem increasingly probable — with two teams facing expiring leases in outdated stadiums, and both clubs with Los Angeles roots — it’s not assured the league will receive any club’s proposal for a move. As of last week, the agenda of a joint meeting of the finance and stadium owners committees scheduled for next week did not include Los Angeles. The subject of Los Angeles also is not expected on the agenda for the full owners meeting scheduled for Dec. 10 in Irving, Texas, sources said. However, late additions to committee and league meeting agendas are not uncommon.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon created a steering committee to explore building a new stadium.
Last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon created a steering committee to examine the prospects of building a new NFL stadium in St. Louis. That action could complicate the process to some degree for the Rams because of the NFL’s relocation bylaw. That six-page provision states that the league considers when a team asks to move if the franchise has engaged in good-faith negotiations with its current home and “afforded that community a reasonable amount of time to address pertinent proposals.”

Creation of the committee could be seen as a sign of the city and state taking a step toward working with the Rams and be considered as action the team should let play out, according to the bylaws.

The Rams are considered the front-runners among NFL teams to move to Los Angeles for several reasons. The team’s lease expires at the end of the season, an outcome borne of arbitration victories in the last year over the city and state.

In addition, the team’s owner, Stan Kroenke, earlier this year bought 60 acres of land adjacent to Hollywood Park in Los Angeles, one of the sites the league has long eyed for a stadium. The 60 acres itself is not believed spacious enough for a full stadium project, but the Hollywood Park racetrack itself is also for sale.

Kroenke has declined to comment in the past, and his spokesman did not return a query seeking comment.

Meanwhile, the NFL, which has told owners that the league controls the Los Angeles process, is engaged in talks again with AEG over that company’s proposed downtown stadium, Farmers Field, sources said.

The Farmers Field site has been on the table since 2010. The issue, as in the past, is AEG wishes to own and operate the stadium with the team as a tenant. The league is proposing instead to build the stadium itself, sources said.

AEG and the NFL declined to comment.

Both the Rams and Raiders, if they do not move for the 2015 season, could renew their local leases on an annual basis with their stadium authorities. But if a team did move, it would need a temporary facility, with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Rose Bowl often touted as potential destinations.

The Rams and Raiders both left Los Angeles after the 1994 NFL season. Several Los Angeles groups bid in 1999 for an expansion franchise but lost out to Houston, which received significant government funding for a new stadium.

In the years since, various proposals and efforts occasionally raised hopes the NFL might return to the nation’s second-largest media market. Cost and team availability, however, always proved insurmountable.

A third team, the San Diego Chargers, can fairly inexpensively end its lease. The Chargers, however, have publicly insisted that they want to make a deal in San Diego for a new stadium. The club also has said publicly that it considers Los Angeles its own market after more than a decade of marketing there and that it would seek to block another NFL club from moving to the city.

Of course, the Chargers could in the end make the move there themselves.