Los Angeles Super Chargers? On Collusion, Relocation And Losing A Fight Song

By Trey Jones / @sports_business

The NFL is in danger of losing the greatest fight song in NFL history.

In an interview with San Diego radio station Mighty 1090, San Diego Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani confirmed what many already believed; the Chargers are filing for relocation to Los Angeles. Fabiani on the move to L.A.,

“We can’t afford to lose our market in Los Angeles and Orange County. As you know, 25% of our season ticket business comes from those markets, so we have to be able to protect those markets. That’s why, as a last resort we went out and created the certain option that we now have in Los Angeles…”

Fabiani’s concerns are certainly valid, as both the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are also expected to file for relocation, and it is highly unlikely that the Chargers would retain all of their LA-based season ticket holders were another team to land in Los Angeles.

On the other end of the spectrum, local San Diegans are trying to provide a more grassroots alternative to keep the Chargers in San Diego through the “Pave Their Own Way” Initiative. Under the initiative, it is proposed that the city would increase their Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) by 5% to 15.5%, with the newly generated revenue being used to fund new stadium construction. While San Diegans have seen numerous stadium proposals come and go – the Chargers have been looking to upgrade the nearly 50-year old Qualcomm stadium for at least the past decade – the Pave Their Own Way Initiative provides a wrinkle which would hopefully make the proposal more appealing; the Initiative does not authorize the usage of any tax payer dollars.

Unfortunately, the plan to save the Chargers may come too little, too late. At the earliest, a vote on the Pave Their Own Way Initiative would not be expected until summer of 2016. On the other hand, while the NFL has not established a specific relocation date, the Chargers would be required to file relocation paperwork between January 1 and February 15 of next year, with the NFL’s Los Angeles Opportunities Committee expected to make a decision on relocation during the upcoming offseason.

So, assuming all three teams file to relocate…who moves to Los Angeles?

The Chargers, and by association, the Raiders, make the most business sense. This relocation opportunity hinges on one key, double-sided point: Which team(s) would be the most viable in L.A. and which team(s) offers the best returns if they stay in their current situation? While all three teams have L.A.-based stadium proposals on the table (the Chargers and Raiders are proposing a 70,000 seat, $1.7B project in Carson, while the Rams have an 80,000 seat, $1.9B project in Englewood), the state of Missouri has already created a task force and presented a viable plan to construct a new stadium and keep the Rams in St. Louis.

The Chargers and Raiders have no such immediate plans in place.

Secondly, the geographical location of the teams begs for a Chargers/Raiders relocation. As Fabiani mentioned, 25% of the Chargers season ticket holders already live in Los Angeles. The Raiders certainly have fans that make the trip from Los Angeles eight times a year to watch the team play. And the Rams? While you may still have Rams fans in Los Angeles, you can't quantifiably measure the impact of their dollars spent with the same level of detail. The NFL would do itself a disservice if they ignored that established foundation to bring in the Rams from thousands of miles away. Furthermore, because of the established fan bases, the NFL would run the risk of cannibalization. Why run the risk of having L.A.-based Chargers fan change allegiances just because there’s a new local team in town?

At that point, you aren’t creating a new revenue stream with the L.A. move; you are merely shifting revenue from one pocket to the next.

Finally, the Chargers/Raiders relocation makes sense because, simply put, it is a numbers game. Two owners working in concert with one another means that you are one vote closer to having your proposal approved, and one vote closer to blocking the approval of a rival proposal (relocation requires the approval of 24 owners).

Unfortunately, a Chargers move would deprive us all of the future enjoyment derived from listening to the Chargers’ “San Diego Super Chargers” fight song.

Admit it. “Los Angeles Super Chargers” just doesn’t have the same appeal.

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