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BILLINGS PARK…. The gargantuan money consuming monster beast, otherwise known as the National Football League is preparing to engage in yet another demonstration of how little fans mean to them. Yes, they are about to vote upon which of three teams will get to take a giant bowel movement on their current fan base and move on to the Land of Milk and Honey for a considerable increase in the value of their holdings. If you have followed this company for any length of time you will know that this is nothing new in their behavioral repertoire and is neither a surprise or a shock.
Oh heavens, some insiders would see this and state that I know nothing about business or about running a company to turn a profit and so on and that I am flat out naïve. Blah, blah and blah. At the end of the day, I understand P & L statements, simple or otherwise, I know that you can’t stay in business if you don’t create a profit and that at the end of the day it is said business entity owners prerogative to have their operations based where they want them to be. They are the investors, they have put up the risk and the fans aren’t and have not. It doesn’t mean it is good business to do what they are about to do, but…
What is happening here? Since the Los Angeles Rams bolted for St. Louis in 1995 and with the Oakland-Los Angeles-Oakland Raiders back in Oakland, the LA area has been without an NFL club for two decades now. While this probably means nothing to the average Los Angelinos, it has been in the craw of the league for a long, long time. Why? Because in the world of sports television contracts, which TV markets your franchises are operating in, relative to their size and rank, will be a factor in the valuation of that contract. That the NFL is not currently in the LA market (2nd in the USA) has most likely taken some value away from that contract, and perhaps a little bit of pride and ego too.
So, the league has conjured up this “democratic” process of taking applications from teams that would like to relocate to LA, and will actually be taking a vote before you read this story. The league is meeting in Houston Tuesday and Wednesday and this vote will be on the table. The three teams in question are St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego. They had to file a relocate application and plead their case for so doing for whatever their reasons might be. Right off of the hop they will plead financial hardship in remaining in their current locale. This is hogwash. The current TV deals in place cover all team expenses before they sell a single ticket or jersey. What this is really all about is valuation. Valuation for the league and the club that will get the golden dollar wand waved over them at the league hoedown.
It is being estimated by some sports economists that the team that will move to LA and into a new facility will automatically double in value. Since most teams are already valued at roughly $1bil plus, you are talking about a fairly big payday here for the lucky vote recipient. And for the city and fans left behind? Too bad, so sad. The NFL doesn’t give a shit for you or what you think, and the sad reality is that it has probably been a real long time since they have, if ever. In the sense of a business that has to take it’s customer base into account in all services and products that they offer, this ain’t one of them. They clearly don’t care and they don’t HAVE to. It is important to make that distinction.
It is also important to note that as an industry, professional sports have gotten taxpayer stadium subsidy to the tune of billions of dollars. Since the 1920’s, 186 new sports stadiums have been built to the tune of $53bil. Taxpayers have covered $32bil of that, or 61% of that total. The No Funding League (that is, their own money) has received 68% of those funds, far and away the largest total of any pro sports league, in the sport that has the least amount of games of any of them. Does this make sense? Don’t we have larger, more important societal needs to invest in? Well shoot, the NFL is incorrigible. Once they got to dip into the taxpayer trough that was it.
Out of the three clubs in the hunt for big money, St. Louis seems to be my frontrunner to win this vote. The owner, Stan Kroenke, has been a successful real estate developer out of Missouri, but is also married to Ann Walton, who is a direct heir of the WalMart fortune. I believe Kroenke is tight with Commissioner Roger Goodell. And in observing the St. Louis scene over the past 6-7 years, Stan started moaning about the need for an “updated” stadium in about the 2010 (that’s a guess) timeframe, and the St. Louis Sports Commission was slow to act. In my view that didn’t matter anyway, Kroenke was laying the groundwork for a move and that was that.
A quick guess for Oakland is that that municipality cannot get a new stadium funded, and perhaps likewise for the San Diego team. I believe new digs have been debated in Oakland for some time now with no result. Not certain about San Diego. The St. Louis folks have come up with a proposed $1.1bil new stadium for Kroenke, but I don’t think it matters, he already has the moving vans lined up. So, all fans can do is sit back and watch this macabre roulette wheel of chance take place before their eyes. Today you have an NFL team, and tomorrow, POOF! You don’t.
Whatever reasons Kroenke, supposing they win this vote, comes up with for the relocation, they don’t add up and should be taken for what they are; dishonest and superficial. Just say it Stan, you are looking for a big payday and this move will be the biggest jackpot since last night’s powerball! But man, the words billionaire and honesty just aren’t in the same lexicon eh? Remember this crazed NFL fan, you don’t matter, and you probably never have, it’s all about the Benjamin’s brother… PEACE