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Volume 20 No. 45
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Plugged In: John Moag

Though he worked with a handful of sports clients as a well-connected Baltimore attorney, John Moag’s full-fledged entry into the industry came by way of an NFL team relocation, working behind the scenes to coax the move of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore as chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority. Two years later, he launched a sports investment banking practice that would handle transactions in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball. With relocation and expansion top of mind across sports, Moag spoke about movement on the NFL map and the value proposition for MLS franchise bidders.

TV money is paramount in the revenue stream. But it is of great concern to every franchise and the NFL itself that the in-stadium experience remains strong. No one wants to watch a game in a stadium with no fans.

Photo by: MOAG & CO.
On the recent spate of NFL relocation: Relocation as a rule is traumatic for the league. ... They do everything they can to not go through it. But when it gets to the point that the status quo is no longer viable, they have to bite the bullet and do something about it. That’s been the case with San Diego and the Rams and Oakland. Years and years have been spent trying to ameliorate a bad stadium situation until it finally got to the point that relocation was the only option available.

On the NFL’s return to L.A.: I think L.A. is a very different market. Traffic is an issue that impacts the fan experience. Distractions are an issue. For a good part of the football season, the beach is an alternative to football. There are a whole lot of factors that will go into the success of L.A. football that are not challenges in most other NFL cities. So I think it’s a quirky market. You’ve got to be absolutely on the top of your game in marketing and keeping that fan coming back and, by the way, staying for the end of the game.

On buying or selling Las Vegas as a pro market: It’s got a lot of transplants. It doesn’t have much of a corporate presence. And the hospitality industry is the (dominant) industry. So that market presents challenges that don’t exist elsewhere — even more challenges than Los Angeles. Because it is such a transient community, you have to look at that market very differently. At how you sell tickets very differently. But there are very creative ways, I think, that the team and league can go about making the Vegas market a success. The importance of the visiting team should not be underestimated. … How do you take advantage of large visiting segments of people who would really enjoy making the NFL part of their long weekend in Vegas.

On whether a $150 million MLS expansion fee pencils out: I haven’t looked at (MLS club financials) recently. But I can tell you that if you can get help on the stadium, it’s not nonsensical, at all, to pay that price. ...  It’s a unique in-stadium experience. It’s a good family experience. And there are a number of markets that you’re seeing doing really well on attendance. With the kind of price you’re paying for the franchise, you can make money on that attendance. It’s fine at that price — especially if it’s not in a crowded market.

— Bill King