It’s fitting that in this age of maximum NFL involvement in the litigation process the fate of the Rams in St. Louis will be determined in large part by a form of litigation.
Actually, arbitration has become a popular alternative to full-blown litigation, allowing parties to resolve differences through a private process that keeps cases out of the courts — which in turns makes the courts very interested in private parties using arbitration.
In St. Louis, with the Rams and the Convention and Visitors Commission unable to agree on what it will take to make the Edward Jones Dome a “first-tier stadium,” three arbitrators will now hear each side out and come up with a plan for placing the venue at least within the top eight of all NFL facilities.
Once the arbitrators, who will be selected by the two sides with the only disqualifying factor being residence in Missouri (where the team now plays) or California (where the team could eventually move), reach a decision, the CVC will have 60 days to decide whether to accept it.
If the CVC accepts the plan, the Rams must stay put for 10 more years. If the CVC rejects it, the Rams can terminate the lease, converting the situation to a year-to-year arrangement that would allow the Rams to leave after any given season.
Setting aside for now the wisdom of the Rams or the CVC agreeing to this process when the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, both sides did — and now both sides must proceed with arbitration, the outcome of which will go a long way toward determining whether the team will stay or go.
And until the Rams make it clear that, no matter what, they won’t be leaving, there’s every reason for folks in St. Louis to worry about the outcome. But if the Rams want the CVC to ultimately accept the decision issued by the arbitrators, the Rams have to create the impression that, without the upgrades, the Rams will leave.