After moving the second team to Los Angeles in two seasons, the NFL has shown its owners are more interested in extorting small-market cities for stadium fees than building loyalty between them and their fans.
It’s not surprising when you think about it, business is business, and the city is one of the biggest markets in the world. Los Angeles has often been used as a bargaining chip by owners to get cities to pay for new stadiums with taxpayer money, but how could they not see the danger in moving not one but two teams to LA, a city which has had an extensive history of failed NFL franchises.
#Chargers still encouraging people to buy tickets for home opener Sunday at Stub. Which means … tickets still remain … for 27k stadium.
— Annie Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) September 14, 2017
Not soon after moving the teams, the NFL is already worried about empty stadiums. The Rams have been unable to fill up the LA Coliseum and the Chargers only managed to sell 25,000 tickets for their first game of the year in the the LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart on the attendance in LA & SF: “Any time we empty seats that something we want to address.” Focused on sellouts.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 13, 2017
It isn’t hard to see the reason why seats are empty, with competing franchises and a market that honestly could go without a football team. Los Angeles has two teams in every major American sports league, and the fans have no reason to be loyal to franchises which have only used LA as leverage over smaller cities who are desperate for a team.
Unsurprisingly, when an owner decides to pack up a franchise and run it out of town on a moments notice, it can really piss off the fan base that the team has built as well as respect around the league. St. Louis is still paying off $280 million in public funds it borrowed to build the Edward Jones Dome in 1995, all in order to attract owner Stan Kroenke to move the Rams there from LA. Kroenke activated a rental agreement clause in 2015 stating the team could be moved with a year’s notice if the stadium fell below the top eight NFL stadiums in the country. This left the city of St. Louis on the line for the remainder of the loan while losing $500,000 a year in rent the Rams were paying.
— Scott B. (@EPLSB) September 10, 2017
Moving the Rams back to LA was a sleazy business move, but I can at least understand the rational to upgrade market size and return to the place the team played for more than 50 years. The Chargers move this year on the other hand is one of the stupidest and most disrespectful decisions I have ever seen, scorning fans in San Diego.
Although the Chargers originated in Los Angeles, they spent only one year there before moving to San Diego in 1961. Even though the Chargers ranked last in NFL in attendance last year, the city was their foundation as an organization and the owner decided to throw it all away just because the Kroenke tricked him into paying half of the rent.
It’s no surprise that Charger’s owner Alex Spanos would do something completely brainless after running such a bad organization over the past few decades that Eli Manning refused to play for them, but this is completely brainless. The city of Los Angeles isn’t even really sure why the team moved, with Mayor Eric Garretti saying on “The Dan Patrick Show” he did not believe that the Chargers should have moved out of San Diego.
“I said at the time, both the Raiders and the Chargers could have stayed put where they are, because Oakland and San Diego have huge fan bases. There’s a big tradition … I believe in players playing for a long time on teams, and teams staying in a city for their lives. That’s really what makes it great growing up. You can root for the players and teams without wondering if it’s all going to be about business, and where somebody could make a few hundred million dollars more.
The worst part of this entire ordeal is that the NFL can not even see the main problem with attendance issues: the ticket prices are too high! People can not afford tickets to games that average $172 a piece on average across the league. The league continues to put more and more restrictions and flags into the game, reducing entertainment value, taking more time, and charging more.
The lack of attendance in Los Angeles should be a major red flag to league owners that if they want to compete with the many other teams and markets in Los Angeles than they will have to lower their prices and stop being disloyal to fans in order to get people through the gates and filling the seats.