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Home » National Football League » NFL Relocation Rules Make Rams’ Picture Even Cloudier

NFL Relocation Rules Make Rams’ Picture Even Cloudier

Earlier this week, we had some fun reacting to an ESPNLA.com opinion piece regarding how the Rams “belong” in Los Angeles, responding with some facts and generally stirring it up with Los Angeles football fans who were kind enough to visit our St. Louis website.

Now, I’m going to take a look at the rules set in place by the league in regard to franchise relocation and give you my opinion about how those rules might be applied if indeed Stan Kroenke decides he wants to go through the process of moving.

From Page D14 Volume I, Administrative/Business Operations – General Administration/Policies of the NFL bylaws, let’s take a look at Article 4.3, section A:

“Because League policy favors stable team-community relations, clubs are obligated to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories, and to operate in a manner that maximizes fan support in their current home community…If, having diligently engaged in good faith efforts, a club concludes that it cannot obtain a satisfactory resolution of its stadium needs, it may inform the League Office and the stadium landlord or other relevant public authorities that it has reached a stalemate in those negotiations. Upon such a declaration, the League may elect to become directly involved in the negotiations.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear that the NFL does not want to move franchises. The legal and government entanglements that result from such moves could conceivably cause the NFL to lose some of the power and influence it possesses on Capitol Hill. For example, look at how the anti-trust threats made against baseball during the steroid hearings scared them into actual steroid testing. Secondly, the Rams are seven months removed from the arbitrator’s decision that the Edward Jones Dome isn’t in the top 25 percent of stadiums. Negotiations in Minnesota took nearly a decade before they reached a deal, and it’s been that long in San Diego. The Rams are talking to the state, but we would seem to be a long way from the Rams being able to conclude that they can’t get a satisfactory resolution of their stadium needs. And when they do, Goodell can and most certainly will become involved.

Also from Article 4.3:

“No club has an “entitlement” to relocate simply because it perceives an opportunity for enhanced club revenues in another location. Indeed, League traditions disfavor relocations if a club has been well-supported and financially successful and is expected to remain so. Relocation pursuant to Article 4.3 may be available, however, if a club’s viability in its home territory is threatened by circumstances that cannot be remedied by diligent efforts of the club working, as appropriate, in conjunction with the League Office, or if compelling League interests warrant franchise relocation.”

There’s a school of thought, which I was a part of, that suggested that Kroenke or any other owner could move his team simply because he wanted to increase the value of his franchise and/or increase revenues. That is not necessarily the case. The Rams and Goodell have been consistent in publicly saying Rams fans have done a good job of supporting the franchise. They understand that in most markets, the lack of success similar to that suffered by the Rams is going to result in less attendance. The Rams do a great job with corporate sales in St. Louis, and rent on the Edward Jones Dome is $250,000 annually. While they are one of the lower-revenue teams in the league, they aren’t losing money. The combination of the league’s desire for franchises to make an effort to stay in their home territory, and the desire to prevent moves because of greed, would seem to work in St. Louis’ favor.  

This is from article C:

In considering a proposed relocation, the Member Clubs are making a business judgment concerning how best to advance their collective interests. Guidelines and factors such as those identified below are useful ways to organize data and to inform that business judgment. They are intended to assist the clubs in making a decision based on their judgment and experience, and taking into account those factors deemed relevant to and appropriate with regard to each proposed move. Those factors include: 

1.     The extent to which the club has satisfied, particularly in the last four years, its principal obligation of effectively representing the NFL and serving the fans in its current community; whether the club has previously relocated and the circumstances of such prior relocation;   

Since John Shaw left and Kevin Demoff arrived, the Rams have done a great job of serving St. Louis fans. That being said, they haven’t had a winning season in 10 years. It should be noted that the league frowns upon multiple moves of a franchise, and the Rams did move here from Los Angeles just 19 years ago.

2.     The extent to which fan loyalty to and support for the club has been demonstrated during the team’s tenure in the current community;   

As has been noted, the Rams and Goodell publicly say that fan loyalty and support in St. Louis is not a problem.

3.     The adequacy of the stadium in which the club played its home games in the previous season; the willingness of the stadium authority or the community to remedy any deficiencies in or to replace such facility, including whether there are legislative or referenda proposals pending to address these issues; and the characteristics of the stadium in the proposed new community; 

While the Edward Jones Dome isn’t state of the art, it is better than what Candlestick Park and the Metrodome have been for the last 10 years, and what Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego is now and has been for a while. And there aren’t any characteristics of a stadium in Los Angeles for the Rams. There are deficiencies to the Dome, but other communities have been given years to work out a stadium deal. For St. Louis and Missouri to only be given 19 months would certainly stray from the NFL’s previous behavior.

4.     The extent to which the club, directly or indirectly, received public financial support by means of any publicly financed playing facility, special tax treatment, or any other form of public financial support and the views of the stadium authority (if public) in the current community; 

This one is interesting in that the franchise was happy to take a 100 percent, publicly financed stadium that’s still being paid for by taxpayers 19 years ago. Sure, there is a different majority owner, but Kroenke bought the Rams on the condition that they be moved to St. Louis and signed off on the lease. I would be interested to see how the NFL would respond to this one. The lease provision requiring top-tier status lets him out of the lease, but taxpayers are funding a stadium he would have signed off on.

5.     The club’s financial performance, particularly whether the club has incurred net operating losses (on an accrual basis of accounting), exclusive of depreciation and amortization, sufficient to threaten the continued financial viability of the club, as well as the club’s financial prospects in its current community;    

From what I understand, with TV money and NFL properties, it’s nearly impossible to lose money if you own an NFL team. There’s a big difference between financial gluttony and financial viability.

6.     The degree to which the club has engaged in good faith negotiations (and enlisted the League office to assist in such negotiations) with appropriate persons concerning terms and conditions under which the club would remain in its current home territory and afforded that community a reasonable amount of time to address pertinent proposals; 

This one is self-explanatory.

7.     The degree to which the owners or managers of the club have contributed to circumstances which might demonstrate the need for such relocation;      

Kroenke has only addressed keeping the team in town once since he bought it, in an interview with Bernie Miklasz in 2010 in which he said, “I’ll do my damnedest,” to secure the Rams’ future in St. Louis. Demoff tries to quell fears. But if Kroenke doesn’t commit to St. Louis, many fans won’t commit to his team. His behavior clearly contributes to less support from the St. Louis market, although the behavior of everyone who works at Rams Park tells you the franchise wants to be here.

Finally this, from Article 4.3, section E:

The Commissioner may recommend a transfer fee to the membership and Finance Committee for consideration in connection with any proposed transfer that he recommends be approved. Among the factors to be considered in the recommendation of such fee will be:    

1.    The income streams available to the club in its new location and the likelihood that they will be realized (which may be affected by community or business guarantees or similar undertakings); 

2.    The income streams historically available to the club in its previous location, and the incremental income streams (if any) that could reasonably be expected to be made available to the club in its old location;   

3.     The effect of the proposed relocation on current or anticipated League-level revenue and expense streams.

We all know that MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers were sold in 2012 for $2.1 billon. Forbes lists NFL franchises as 15 of the 17 most valuable American sports franchises, with the Yankees standing at No. 1 and the Dodgers at No. 4. NFL owners, with the No. 1 sport, must know that if the Dodgers can command $2.1 billion, they can command at least $2 billion apiece for two expansion franchises. A move would affect league revenue, and would affect franchise revenue streams. Goodell and NFL owners aren’t going to just let someone waltz into L.A. without charging them an exorbitant relocation fee. Peter King estimated on our Thursday show that a move for Kroenke would cost between $2 and $3 billion. A massive relocation fee and the cost of building a stadium himself would appear to be prohibitive.

Those are my opinions. I found Los Angeles Times NFL writer Sam Farmer’s take interesting, too. He said on King’s TheMMQB podcast, “I think St. Louis is going to step forward with a more competitive bid and is not going to take this lying down. I’m a cynic. I’ve covered this for eighteen years now, and I’m cynical about anything getting done in Los Angeles. I think it’s so complex, and I always revert to what one owner told me, talking about the competitiveness of L.A. and how you will get kneecapped if you try to get by another competitor. An owner told me that in L.A. you don’t root for your competition to fail, you root for your competition to die, so once one stadium proposal rises up, you’re going to have the others take it out in any way possible.” He went on to say, “It’s going to be very difficult. I think deals will get done in other cities and L.A. will be without a team in five years.”

Kroenke may want to go down the road to L.A. Farmer notes that Stan loves it out there. But if he decides to do it, NFL rules and the other folks in SoCal apparently are going to make it pretty bumpy.

About Randy Karraker

Randy Karraker co-hosts The Fast Lane, weekdays from 2pm-6pm on 101ESPN. He also hosts much of 101ESPN’s special coverage during Rams season. Randy has more than two decades of experience in St. Louis sports radio broadcasting.
  • Worthy James

    I think at the end of the day I have to disagree with you about whether the league wants to keep SK out of LA. It seems the possibility of growing the pie and being able to stage Super Bowls in the media capital again would be desirable. Also, you need to consider that there aren’t really a lot of cities left to leverage into building stadiums….there’s Oakland, who already has funding in place for it’s new Coliseum City thanks to Colony…there’s San Diego who will have a new stadium proposal on the ballet in June 2015…and then there’s yours and my beloved Rams. Furthermore, even if the league opposed the move, there is already a precedent that Stan would likely crush the league in court. I don’t think Goodell wants to drag his “non-profit” through another ugly and very public court battle. Just ask the grinning corpses of Davis and Frontiere. Remember, the league’s owners did NOT want the Rams in St Louis in the first place…. As far as our politics out here goes, yes, they are difficult, but that was in large part due the Coliseum Commission. Mayor Garcetti has already said the he would support a stadium in Inglewood, which says a lot. At the end of the day, I don’t think SK randomly bought Hollywood Park without Goodell knowing anything about it. Most likely, it was bought as an option, to leverage the very standoffish, ongoing negations with AEG and Farmers Field. All the leverage in the world won’t get 700 million out of St Louis (or anything close to that). We can baselessly speculate that Kroenke would be happy with 400 mill or less, but he can leave his demands high at this point, and frankly the courts have backed him up on that.

    • 1stdownrams

      Randy don’t listen to those unfortunate souls. They wish they were as smart as you buddy! Rams ain’t going anywhere ! Oh wait, maybe to their brand new stadium in the beautiful St. Louis!!! The Fast Lane Rules!!!

      • Gerald Reynolds

        Yah, sure, that is what Kroenke has purchased 60 acres of prime real estate in LA and hasn’t done jack or said jack in or two st Louis for 2 years now.

        • 1stdownrams

          That don’t mean Jack! Rams are staying put! It’s ok, you can still root for your team no matter what city they’re in! Go Rams!!!

          • Glen R Janred

            Whew! Talk about denial!

  • Worthy James

    Oh, and tell D’Marco that his “LA would’t sell 50,000 seats to see and undefeated team,” comments make him sound like a lunatic. You do realize that on multiple occasions last year there were nearly 170,000 fans at the UCLA and USC games happening simultaneously at the Coliseum and Rose Bowl. Farr will most likely be looking for a job in LA soon, and we won’t soon forget those nonsensical pot-shots from our old buddy in St Louis. Zero credibility for the mustachioed wrestling enthusiast at this point.

  • Randy Karraker

    Denial is more than just a river.

    • Worthy James

      Yup. It’s odd that a Mississippi dweller such as yourself would choose to live Da’ Nile lifestyle Randy….tic..tic…tic…

      • Randy Karraker

        Sir:

        I understand and applaud your passion. The reason I suggested that there’s some
        denial at play here is because you don’t seem to understand the overwhelming
        evidence. Of course, neither did the Los
        Angeles O.J. Simpson jury, so perhaps this is a malady indigenous to the area. I completely understand if you can’t sit
        still to read and listen through all this stuff. I actually self-diagnosed myself with adult
        ADD. But once again, here are the
        facts. If you sift through them and it
        makes you feel good about the Rams moving to Los Angeles, then I’m happy for
        you. I want you to be happy, whether it’s
        obliviously so otherwise…

        Here are the complete NFL relocation guidelines. There are items that should allow Los Angeles
        fans reason for optimism, but also rules in place (because Ken Behring moved
        the Seahawks there for a week and Al Davis wanted to come back) that make it
        extraordinarily difficult and expensive to move…

        http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/148181325.html

        Here are subsequent items put in place after Roger Goodell
        took over as commissioner…

        http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/29/sports/la-sp-nfl-la-goodell-20120630

        Here’s the Q and A specifically regarding Los Angeles and
        movement (also perhaps to London) from
        Goodell’s Super Bowl press conference two weeks ago…

        Q: The Kroenke organization confirmed today that it indeed
        purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to Hollywood Park, and I wonder, to what
        extent did Stan Kroenke inform the league, if at all, about buying this land,
        and what he plans to do with it?

        A: “As you know, our policy is that they do have to keep us
        informed of any developments or anything that’s going on in the Los Angeles
        market, by policy. Stan is a very large
        developer on a global basis. He has land
        throughout the country and throughout the world. He has kept us informed of it. We’re aware of it. There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a
        stadium development. Anything that would
        require any kind of stadium development requires multiple votes of the
        membership.”

        Q: My follow-up would just be, what would you say to the
        millions of St. Louis Rams fans out there who see this as a fairly aggressive
        step towards Los Angeles and the Los Angeles market?

        A: “Exactly what I just said to you. Stan is a very successful developer. He has billions of dollars of projects that
        are going on around the country in real estate development. So I think instead of overreacting, we should
        make sure we do what’s necessary to continue to support the team locally, which
        the fans have done in St. Louis, and make sure we can do whatever we can to
        make sure that team is successful in the St. Louis market.”

        Q: Are you concerned that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of
        stadium negotiations going on in St. Louis?

        A: “I think there’s been quite a lot of activity. You know better than I do, but there’s been a
        lot of discussions about the lease about the future of the dome and how that
        would play into the future of the team.
        So I think there’s been quite a bit of discussions. Active negotiations, I don’t know if you’d
        put it in that category, but there’s been a lot of discussions.”

        Q: Just as a follow-up – the league has let it be known that
        it controls the LA market. Could you
        elaborate on just what that means?

        A: “Well, at the end of the day, any team that potentially
        could relocate into Los Angeles, or any other market, is subject to
        three-quarters vote. So 24 owners have
        to approve any relocation in any stadium development.”

        Q: Can you tell us the thoughts of ownership on a potential
        London franchise across the ownership group, and also are we a step closer to a
        London franchise than we were this time last year, given that we’ve now sold
        out three games?

        A: “I’ll tell you that I believe that the response to the
        third game in the UK and the way that the fans have embraced that – sold that
        out in such a short period of time – is just another indication that the more
        we give fans in the UK of NFL football, the more they want. That’s a great tribute to the fans there and
        their passion. And I believe you are
        further down the road because you are now three games into it. What our next step is, I don’t know. That’s something we’re going to have to
        evaluate. We believe that we will
        continue to grow there and that’s going to take work. We’re going to have to continue to invest in
        that marketplace and find ways to engage those fans even more deeply. I’m optimistic that they’ll respond
        favorably, as they already have.”

        The guy who covers the Los Angeles market the best, Sam
        Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, isn’t confident about a Rams move, or any
        other team playing in L.A., in the next five years…

        http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/podcasts/peter_king/

        And finally, here’s Rams COO Kevin Demoff this past week…

        http://www.101sports.com/2014/02/11/kevin-demoff-expects-rams-stay-right-st-louis/

        • Worthy James

          Do you know who created the relocation guidelines? Not the federal government. Not the state government. Not your city government. The league did. The same group of owners, who have come to the point where their shared revenue will greatly benefit by replacing a lackluster football market with Los Angeles. I have read the guidelines several times and one of the overwhelming themes is that what benefits the league, will be what takes place. I could go through each clause that you cherry picked as a possible reason Kroenke won’t be allowed to take his team where he wants, but why bother? Just wait til 2015, and at that point please print a hard copy of this article to help mop up the river BS that has been streaming from several of the local media members in Santa Louis. Your obsession with explaining away reality is a gross waste of time, but hey, I commented on it, so who am I to judge? Keep up the enlightening work Randy.

  • Gerald Reynolds

    Randy, I’m going to enjoy laughing at your articles here come March 2015. No point in arguing with you here because your clearly homer of the 1st order. Be that as it may. You talk about evidence being ignored and yet you cherry pick and slant your articles to fit your agenda. They say that actions speak louder than words. Well, there was a huge action just these past couple of weeks and it was Kroenke purchasing enough land in a spot the NFL has coveted for a long time. You in St Louis have always said that Kroenke likes to own the land and he likes to own the stadium. Well, now he owns the land. Guess what comes next?

    • Randy Karraker

      Why are you guys so worked up over a piece that says a move is going to be difficult? If the league so desperately wanted a team in Los Angeles, they could have given the Texans franchise unconditionally, or not worked so hard to keep the Seahawks in Seattle, the Colts in Indy or the Vikings in Minnesota. If you think the owners are swinging the LA gates open specifically for this franchise, you aren’t paying attention. It’s a valuable market for a franchise. The other owners aren’t going to make it easy.

      • Gerald Reynolds

        Oh I don’t know, maybe for me it goes back to 1995 when I kept hearing the malarky of the move was made because the Rams were never supported out here in LA. Maybe it is that Paul Tagliabue and company did not adhere to their own guidlines back in 1995. There was no valid reason for moving the team then, In fact it was initially voted down by a landslide by the owners as you may recall. So what changed their minds? Even Bud Adams at the time made the comment as I recall that the Rams were getting better average attendance than the Oilers were in Houston. Sure there is going to be red tape to work through for any franchise move. But keep in mind the league bylaws are work instructions. There can always be a work around and who says any relocation fee has to be paid all at once? Anything can be negotiated. I’m not in denial about this at all. More pros favor this move than there are Cons against the move.

        • wiltonater

          Stan already has land and a stadium in London and will not have to pay 2-3 billion to move there. That seems more logical than LA.

      • Eric Geller

        EXACTLY….Los Angeles is a valuable market every league owner really isn’t entirely benefiting from because there isn’t a team there, It’s always been about stadium issues in Los Angeles – just as it is now in St. Louis. Once a stadium is being built – and there are two shovel ready locations now – and a team moves to L.A. each owner’s 1/32nd slice of the pie becomes that much greater.

        Kroenke’s purchase of the 60 acres in Inglewood adds another possible option.

        Nothing etched in stone. But it’s a very real possibility all of yu in St. Louis are brushing aside.That’s all.

  • Gerald Reynolds

    Oh Randy, maybe you better talk to Howard Balzer amigo. HB reportedly doesn’t agree with your obstacles article here. It was reported that HB was on the Ross Tucker and Booger McFarland show on Sirius NFL radio yesterday and in essence said the obstacles are baloney. If Stan wants to move to LA he will.

  • Glen R Janred

    Did this rule exist in 1995? If so, Ms Frontiere violated it in spirit if not in fact.

    • Worthy James

      Paul Tagliabue said that the Rams did not meet relocation guidelines in ’95. Georgia was only allowed to move after the threat of a lawsuit by the team and the city of St Louis.

  • Ram for life Steve

    HMMMMMM.
    Most of the NFL owners have openly said they need a team back in LA. They have also openly said they are not in support of any expansion teams at this time. A few have said they would support the Rams coming back. These are the folks that will vote on the relocation. So we will see. We, the LA RAMS true fans, have gotten a lot of chatter by most STL people. The bottom line, will they still be Ram fans if they relocate? We were. Many of us traveled thousands of miles to fill those empty home seats. The NFL is much larger than it was in the 1990’s. We probably have as many Rams fans in Northern Ca, as you do in STL. I do not have anything to say bad about the STL Ram fans, I’m in full support of them moving back to LA.

  • socalsooner17

    Very poorly written article, every point is laughably slanted towards those who want the Rams to stay in St Louis, with little to no basis in reality. Kroenke may have spent $90 million on a property just to bluff St Louis, but it’s pretty doubtful. There is literally no NFL regulation that would prevent the Rams from moving if both Kroenke and the league want it.

  • Eric Geller

    That “TopTier” stipulation in the original lease signed by the Rams and city of St. Louis appears to circumvent many of your points and rules.

    Kroenke has followed that original lease to the letter. The Rams have done everything in good faith.

    The EJD is not – and won’t be – “Top Tier” ever.

    Per your example from article “C-3″ Arbitrators ruling in favor of the Rams $700 million proposal over the CVC’s $124 million proposal for stadium upgrades clearly points to the stadium authority’s UNWILLINGNESS – and inability- to pony up $700 million for upgrades to EJD or to build a new stadium.

    The majority of the community of St. Louis is not willing to pay extra taxes to a billionaire to house his football team for eight Sunday’s each Fall considering the community is still paying for the Dome and will do so for at least another decade.

    Even with a G-4 loan St. Louis cannot afford to upgrade the EJD or build the Rams a new stadium.

    Plain and simple Stan Kroenke can move his team with 3/4’s approval by the league owners who ALL will absolutely stand to financially benefit from a move to the nation’s second largest market from the 22nd.

  • sickoe47

    So all the writer’s in st louis love cherry picking quotes and facts that fit their agenda.one thing or two things you failed to mention is that fans in st louis don’t show up to games!if there’s no people in the seats how are people buying souvenirs,drinks,food and beers in concessions stands in the stadiums.their also was a report coming out of st louis that the rams were giving books of tickets out to big companies in and around the st louis area and the companies were giving the tickets to thier employees for free and soon after the employees were selling those same free tickets to visiting team fans.the other thing you failed to bring up is the fact that no one in st louis is watching the rams on tv.

  • Worthy James

    Paul Tagliabue said that the Rams did not meet relocation guidelines in ’95. Georgia was only allowed to move after the threat of a lawsuit by the team and the city of St Louis. Perhaps all this could’ve been avoided if St Louis and Georgia didn’t try to joke the guidelines in court. But one thing is certain, that is called a precedent. Expect Stan’s team of lawyers to get busy the same way if Spanos tries to get some of his buddies to block a move.

  • Joshua Lee Hampton

    Oh kill em Randy! Good article bro keep up the good work son!

  • Tommy T

    All you LA people are gunna be so mad when they stay in St. Louis. Lol but hey people can dream right?

  • Jeff

    I hope someone realizes when King said it would cost $2 to 3 Billion dollars to move to Los Angeles when that is a little more then half of his money. Why would he waste so much money on one franchise when he as other to support.

  • Jeff Tucker

    No one in LA has said they will build him a stadium. No one in St. Louis said they will build him a new stadium, but will upgrade the stadium they built for him. Next move.

    • Jeff Tucker

      It is also ironic that they made Stan a minority owner of the Rams so they would have local ownership. And that would mean that an owner from the area would be less likely to move the team.