Sometime next year or in 2016, the NFL’s 20-year tango with Los Angeles finally might lead to a real relationship.
“I’d like to see two franchises in L.A,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft told USA TODAY Sports last week. “I think within the next year or two we can see something real with L.A. At least one team.”
So why should Kraft or anybody else feel this way now after 20 years of rumors and proposals — but no team — in the nation’s second-largest television market?
A big reason is fear — the dread of being left out in a high-stakes game of musical chairs.
The San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams each are displeased with their current stadiums and could leave their current cities after this season without a prohibitive penalty, according to their lease terms.
All three are eyeing not only the empty Los Angeles market, but also each other, a person close to the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
With as many as two spots up for grabs in Los Angeles, each franchise is driven by concerns that it could be stuck in its current market in an undesirable situation while the other two party up in their new shared palace in L.A, said the person, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.
Media reports in recent weeks have fueled the perception that the NFL’s return to L.A. is imminent. But there are still tall hurdles to scale — some of them in Los Angeles, along with several other issues to work out within the exclusive circle of NFL owners.
It’s not only about how to get a new stadium built, at a likely cost of more than $1 billion. If Kraft’s prediction is to come true, the league needs to find a temporary place to play in Los Angeles while a new stadium is constructed.
The Rose Bowl would seem to be the ideal choice after hosting five Super Bowls. The problem for the NFL is legal opposition. A neighborhood and environmental group is challenging the league’s potential presence — a case that is pending in the state Court of Appeal and might not be decided for a year.
“If the NFL wanted to start using the Rose Bowl and our case wasn’t over yet, we would ask the court to not allow that,” Susan Brandt-Hawley, an attorney for the group, told USA TODAY Sports.
Then there’s the issue of picking which team, or two, gets to move, with no plans to add an expansion team on the horizon.
Any owner who wants to move must get approval from 24 of the league’s 32 owners, unless, of course, that owner does something similar to what Raiders owner Al Davis did in the 1980s. After his proposed move from Oakland to Los Angeles was rejected in a league vote, Davis successfully sued the league for the right to move to Los Angeles on his own. Then he moved the team back to Oakland in 1995.
It only takes nine of the league’s 32 owners to block a move. And there are plenty of reasons for some owners to not want the Raiders, Chargers or Rams moving to Los Angeles, the person said.
“People are talking about this site, that site, this team, that team, one team, two teams, next year or the year after that,” said sports consultant Marc Ganis, who helped the Raiders and Rams leave Los Angeles for new cities in 1995. “Right now these are ingredients, but the cake is not yet baked.”