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How much are the Rams really worth?

The St. Louis Rams did not make Forbes' list of the 50 most valuable sports teams. It means nothing. Allow us to explain.


Forbes released its annual list of the most valuable sports franchises on Monday. Naturally, the NFL was well represented on the list. You don't need to be an economist to know that professional football is awfully profitable, and stands to get more profitable once the new wave of television contracts go into effect in 2015. All but two of the league's 32 teams landed among the top 50 most valuable sports franchises in the world. Guess which team failed to cross that threshold.

The St. Louis Rams landed at No. 51 followed by the Jaguars at No. 52.

(Let me warn you that a click-hungry Forbes has it set up in tedious slideshow format. Don't bother clicking through to the end unless you have unlimited time on your hands).

Now, I love a good list as much as the next fellow, but this one is fraught with problems. I'd probably just ignore it completely if it weren't A) the offseason and B) it'll get cited over and over again in the near insufferable relocation debate.

Based on ...

Think back to the 2011 lockout. Remember how the NFLPA fought tooth and nail to get a look at the financials for each team? It was a non-starter. Except for the "publicly" held Packers, the league's other 31 teams keep their books private and confidential.

Open books would reveal plenty of disparity between the NFL's haves and have nots, which I would argue was really what the lockout was about at its core. At any rate, how in the hell do you determine a team's total value without any knowledge whatsoever about its financials?

I'm struggled with finite math in college, so I'm not an authority here. Still, seems like stuff like a team's revenue would be useful for determining its overall value.

Liquid assets

The average NFL team is worth around a billion dollars. That's a fairly safe, unscientific estimate based on the sale price of recent franchises ... and if the Browns can fetch a cool billion ...

Nevertheless, teams aren't exactly the most liquid of assets. It's not like the office building at Rams Park is just a big vault stuffed with gold bullion, shiny rubies and booty. In the end, a pro sports franchise is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.


Unlike baseball or other sports (and I'll cop to knowing very little about the economics of European soccer leagues) on that Forbes list, television money is the great equalizer in the NFL. One thing that sets apart teams in the NFL is their home field advantage, i.e. who owns the stadium and how much revenue it generates.

Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder are the perfect example. Those stadiums generate an enormous revenue stream from luxury suites, premium seating and a list of non-NFL events hosted at the facility.

The Rams have been open about what else could be done with a better facility. The $700 million Dome renovation, since rejected by the CVC, would have made the building capable of hosting a Super Bowl, big time soccer games, Final Fours, and all kinds of other events.

That benefits the local economy (though the size of the impact is debatable), and, more importantly, it generates more revenue for the team's owners. That's revenue that doesn't get divvied up with players like television contracts either. The less an owner has to share with a public landlord, the better. Playing in the Dome limits the Rams profitability and holds back the franchise's overall valuation.

Soccer is profitable too

Look what franchise happens to be 10th on the Forbes list. It's one of Stan Kroenke's other pro teams, the Arsenal of the English Premier League, valued at an estimated $1.3 billion. In fact, the top three teams on this list are all European soccer franchises, including Manchester United which is owned by the Glazers who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With the NFL's budding interest in London, owning an NFL team as well as an EPL team is often seen as the first step toward relocating across the pond by lazy journalists and talk radio people. It's really not though. Sometimes people and companies own separate interests for the purpose of making money ... shocking, I know.

Alright, that's enough of that. I've given Forbes a good 100 page views or so this morning thanks to that stupid slide show. If Steve Forbes isn't on the next ballot, throwing lucrative INTERNET GOLD away, I'll be a little disappointed.