#360USA: Rams relocation to LA proves cash is king

Steve Brenner 10:12 18/01/2016
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Moving home: The Rams.

Ultimately, it was all about the money. Forget the heart-wrenching tales of distraught St. Louis Rams fans losing an NFL team for the second time in less than three decades. Ignore the pain of watching what will become spurious, fruitless attempts to sue Commissioner Roger Goodell for leading supporters down the garden path. And hey, don’t worry about the city still owing over $100 million for a stadium which has now lost its main attraction.

No, this a story of Stan ‘I’ll never leave St. Louis’ Kroenke and his billions calling the shots.

Emotional ties dominate sports all over the world. But, in these modern times, it’s a ruthless business more than ever. In the cold light of day, the decision to rip the Rams from Missouri and transplant them back to the West Coast – more than 1,800 miles away – is cruel and unfair.

Yet, when Kroenke and his incestuous friends who skip with delight in the NFL’s corridors of power discussed all the alternatives, there was only going to be one outcome.

Yes, it could have been different. The San Diego Chargers could have made the move to Los Angeles. The Oakland Raiders, whose previous incarnation took place in the City of Angels under controversial owner Al Davis before leaving the city in 1995, were also in the mix. Kroenke, however, had all the aces up his sleeve.

The purchase of land in Inglewood (ironically the same area on which Davis had looked to build) which will be converted into a spectacular $1.8 billion stadium, was a potential money-making machine no one wanted to miss. American football in Tinseltown? It’s a marketing man’s dream.

Such are the grandiose nature of the plans – it’s being dubbed as an NFL hub, the home of the game on the West Coast, plus an astonishingly modern events arena to keep the dollars rolling in – it was, eventually a no-brainer.

Yet, a vote of 30-2 was incredibly resounding. A serious vote of approval and one which has ensured the embattled Goodell is back in nearly everyone’s good books following a tempestuous 12 months of scandals ranging from domestic abuse to deflated balls.

The NFL is on track to double its revenue over the next decade towards $25bn. You can hear the back-slapping from here. The poor souls in St. Louis are the undeniable losers, though the franchise owners don’t care a jot.

“This is driven by finance, pure and simple,” a source with intrinsic knowledge of the high-level discussions, told Sport360. “The NFL owners have been known to be rather incestuous, and so it has proved. The man with the most money makes the biggest offer and everyone follows.”

Losing a team that won the Super Bowl in 1999 is one bitter pill to swallow. Though, the debris left behind has left even more pain.

While Kroenke’s super-stadium in LA will be privately financed, the Edwards Jones Dome was created in 1995 with public money, such was the desperation to bring top-level sport back to the city. Nowadays, owners sign non-relocation agreements which ensure teams cannot simply leave a huge unpaid debt behind.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, it was before the authorities agreed on a 30-year loan which would total $720m. At the start of 2015, Missouri still owed $129m; they pay $12m towards that loan annually. The debt will remain until at least 2021.

Without the Rams’ income, it will become increasingly harder to meet the repayments. Cities losing teams is nothing new. Notable defections in the past saw Atlanta bag the Hawks from St. Louis, the Dodgers famously left Brooklyn and the Colts quit Baltimore.

There will be more. There’s a chance NFL could return – Oakland, who could move in with the Rams if the San Diego Chargers don’t take up the offer, may switch to St Louis.

Yet the final sting in the tail for those Rams fans will come next season when their beloved team strolls out the creaking Coliseum which will serve as their temporary home for three whole years. Yes, the same stadium which forced former owner Carroll Rosenbloom to move out of LA in the first place all those years ago. Oh, the heartbreaking irony.

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