Seth Wickersham (ESPN.com) reported that “a major discussion topic among NFL owners/executives” at last week’s league meetings was “the Chargers’ (long-term) viability in LA.” While the talks were characterized as “private conversations”, as opposed to conversation in response to a “formal presentation”, there is legitimate concern “about the extent to which the Chargers are struggling to build a fan base in Los Angeles.” The franchise draws a league low 25,370 fans (many of them rooting for the visiting team) to its temporary home in Carson and is struggling to sell SSLs for their new stadium (they’re tenants, the Rams own the venue) in Inglewood; the team is expected to begin play there in 2020.
Howie Long-Short: The Chargers made this move because they were unable to get a new publicly funded stadium in San Diego and thought a move into the 2nd biggest media market would increase the franchise’s valuation. While the club’s value has grown from $1.525 billion in ‘15 to $2.275 billion in ’18 (Forbes), much of the growth is tied to an increase in league broadcast revenues (positively impacting the valuation of every team) and stadium revenue (think: suites, advertising) they’re unlikely to realize. The team has already acknowledged their $400 million Inglewood revenue target isn’t going to happen and “are expected to revise” the estimate to “a more realistic number” (see: $150 million).
The NFL contends that the Chargers will draw, that they simply need time (for L.A. fans to warm up to the league again, after 20+ years without a team) and the new stadium; but, that’s wishful thinking. When the Chargers petitioned for a move from SD to LA, they insisted that 25% of the franchise’s fan base came was from the greater Los Angeles area. With the Rams drawing nearly 3x the fans (69,163) and the club averaging just a 7.6 television rating in Los Angeles (compared to 13.9 in San Diego), it’s clear that’s not the case.
While the team would certainly have feelings to mend if it wanted to return to San Diego (and they’d still need to figure out the stadium situation), a homecoming in America’s Finest City is the most fiscally risk adverse (reason they moved to LA as tenants) move the franchise could make; Mexico City and Oakland would both make sense, but remain long-shots at this point.
Fan Marino: It would be reasonable to assume London is next in line for an NFL franchise if you read recent articles entitled “It’s now harder to get a ticket for a London NFL game than a Beyoncé concert” and “UK ‘Definitely Ready’ For London NFL Team”, but there are a couple of reasons why the league is likely to put a team in Mexico City (or Canada) before it moves a franchise across the Atlantic. The difficulties associated with travel (5 hours would be the shortest flight) are most often discussed, but a bigger issue is the time difference; how can you place a team in a market where the league’s prime-time games don’t kick off until after 1a local time.
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