As the fat cats of the NFL meet in New York to discuss ways to squeeze more money into their deep pockets, a tweet popped up on Wednesday that sent puffs of intrigue across the Los Angeles sports scene.
A major discussion topic among NFL owners/executives at this week’s league meetings is the Chargers’ viability in LA. PSL sales have been a struggle and team is expected to revise its Inglewood revenue goals sharply to a more realistic number: $400m to around $150m, per sources— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) October 17, 2018
My first thought: “Good. Move the Chargers to England for all I care. The Rams should have the southland to themselves.” OK, I didn’t say “southland” in my thoughts because only news anchors say “southland,” but you get the drift.
The Los Angeles Chargers are struggling mightily to sell seats for their future home in Inglewood, California in 2020. This fact resurrects an idea that Rams fans have been feeling ever since the bolts left San Diego: the Chargers aren’t wanted in Los Angeles.
When you go to a Chargers game in Carson, it’s like the “home fans” are visiting. They might even get a hotel for the night. It’s a long drive back to Carlsbad. But if you went to Busby’s on Whilsire on a Sunday, you wouldn’t be swarmed by dudes in Phillip Rivers gear. In fact, I bet I could find more Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans than Chargers fans at most sports bars in Los Angeles. Maybe that’s a little too far. How about the Vikings? Go on a hike at Griffith Park and I bet you’ll find a Vikings fan before a Chargers fan.
And because of the mess that the Spanos family made in San Diego, the Chargers don’t belong there either.
When the Chargers were included in the move to Los Angeles, it was expected that they would sell $400m in personal seat licenses — a huge portion of the revenue needed for this whole move into a multi-billion dollar stadium. The fact that the Chargers are pulling not even half of their expected revenue is quite obviously a big deal to the NFL. The owners could be taking a dive in profits if the Chargers can’t get fans to pay a premium price to see them play in Inglewood.
To put that in context, the best seat at the Inglewood stadium will come with a licensing bill of $100,000 for Rams season-ticket holders and $75,000 for Chargers season-ticket holders. That 25K difference makes it very clear to me that the Spanos family made an embarrassing maneuver to invade Los Angeles.
Much of the Chargers’ lingering debt is tied to their relocation fees ($650 million over 10 years), which the NFL directly controls. The Chargers also are in need of a home, which the NFL has the ability to finance. If the owners feel that they can negotiate a new or revised stadium deal with the Chargers that covers or increases their expected income from that (about $209,000 per team per year), then things start to look a lot more likely that action might take place.
How does any of this affect the Los Angeles Rams? Simply put: they could be losing a roommate before moving day. This idea sounded insane even a couple of weeks ago. If you read the tweets by Vincent Bonsignore, you’ll know that the Chargers are going to be in LA for the next 30 years. And as much as this is, Vinnie is probably right.
California isn't a state that readily agrees to put taxpayer money to stadiums. But not every market in this state makes sense for an owner to foot the entire bill themselves or has enough land available around it to develop in order to recoup construction cost. Rock/hard place https://t.co/1i6Pw3NdU0— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) October 17, 2018
Even though there were jokes about the attendance for Rams’ games throughout 2016 and early 2017, the numbers are quite different now that the Rams are regularly pulling in roughly 69k fans into an old stadium that doesn’t have the modern amenities of a first-class organization. Meanwhile, the Chargers are pulling in about 25k fans with state-of-the-art amenities (for a soccer stadium). And going to a Chargers’ game is a fun experience — the sight-lines for an NFL game are amazing. Every seat has a perfect view.
The problem? The fans from San Diego have been burned by the Spanos family. Even though the Chargers are competitive and have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs, I don’t blame fans in San Diego for not wanting to fork over thousands of dollars so they can drive 2 and a half hours up the gridlocked 5 freeway to be outnumbered at a home game.
And the fans in San Diego have a right to be mad and stay at home. They didn’t want to start a fight for LA, they just wanted their team in their hometown. As a kid, I felt burned by Georgia Frontiere’s decision to move the Rams to St. Louis. It took me a while to get over it. And my friends in Orange County felt the same way — it was the 90s and kids just moved on once the Rams and Raiders left town. Sure, some remained faithful, but my experience was that kids my age started following the big market teams that were fun to watch — the Dallas Cowboys, Elway and the Broncos, and even Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers. Home-town loyalty quickly died out. And that’s what I think is happening in San Diego.
But the Chargers don’t have time to wait for fans to get over their feelings of betrayal. Money that could be going to the owners is just being left on the table and that will not stand.
Just look at what commissioner Roger Goodell had to say about the matter:
Lots of football, lots of building still to do. And frankly, we were out of the market for a long time, and we have to earn our way back with our fans. We have to build that relationship back with our fans and make sure that we do it right. Both teams are committed to that. It will be something that we have to work at over a period of time. They both have very exciting young teams, and I think that will be helpful also. But I think all of those things will come together over the next two years. That’s the work that needs to be done.
That’s a very political answer. The fact that he’s forced to comment on the idea of the Chargers’ not finding a fanbase means something. I think he wants to make a big move and get the Spanos family out of this contract. This is all conjecture, but the Chargers could keep their “Los Angeles” name and play in a stadium in the City of Industry — a location closer to San Diego and also has millions of people who hate going up to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been flourishing on the other side of the orange curtain, and they make loads of money. And Orange County fans and Inland Empire fans will embrace a team if they feel like it’s theirs and not the weirdos who live in the Hollywood Hills.
Of course, the more likely landing spot for the Chargers would be overseas where any cast-off NFL franchise seems likely to end up in the next decade or so.
The London Chargers doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but you know what does? 80,000 screaming fans. Let the Chargers make a fortune in the U.K. You can even rebrand them and call them the London Hufflepuffs for all I care. Just end the embarrassment of the Chargers trying to make it happen in LA. It’s awkward and everyone (including the Spanos family) knows it.
Can the Rams dominate the sports landscape in LA while sharing a stadium with the Chargers? Sure, why not. Do you really want a banner of Melvin Gordon in a Chargers’ uniform, hanging over the wall when you walk into a Rams’ game? No. I want the Stadium to be officially known as the Rams House. Think about how rad that would be if the only NFL franchise playing in the Inglewood stadium was the Rams.
And the Chargers are on the outside looking in.