After the Rams announced on Monday the decision to scrap a plan to play London home games in 2013 and 2014, MDS astutely pointed out that the Rams may have given on that point now in order to make it easier for the Rams to point a finger at the Convention and Visitors Commission later.
Rams COO Kevin Demoff, in an appearance on The Morning After on 590 The Fan in St. Louis, disputed the notion that there’s a deeper agenda to the reduction of the London inventory from three homes games to one.
In so doing, he paid us a compliment. We think.
“I think everybody will try to find hidden meanings in anything in the world, and ProFootballTalk is especially good at that,” Demoff said. “[PFT] covers the NFL very well and takes a different perspective, which is why they generate so many page views. But I think to try to find hidden meaning in this — we didn’t go to the CVC and say, “We’re gonna pull this two games back, what do you think? Or what’s the challenge?’ We made this decision with the NFL in order that we could focus on this process. And I think for anybody to look far beyond ‘the timing was wrong’ is looking for something that’s not in play.”
But what does it mean to “focus on the process”? It reasonably could mean that the Rams realized that playing the games in London could have a major impact on the P.R. portion of the process, which when dealing with pro sports franchises necessarily is a big part of any process in which the team is involved.
Indeed, in the inherently complex game of public relations involving a general public that may not have the time or inclination to study the nuances, the idea that the Rams made a fan-friendly move will resonate throughout the process of getting the stadium into the top 25 percent of all venues in the league, as required by the team’s lease. If the Rams had followed through on the plans to export one regular-season game per year to London for each of the next three years, it would have been harder to get the fans to focus on the situation from the team’s perspective: The CVC agreed in 1995 to a procedure for putting the Rams in a first-tier stadium by 2015, and the failure to make that happen will be the result of a decision by the CVC, not the Rams.
And so, if the CVC ultimately decides not to implement the final ruling of a panel of arbitrators who’ll determine what it will take to make the Edward Jones Dome a first-tier stadium, the Rams will have to decide whether to pull the plug on their lease after the 2014 season and potentially relocate. By positioning the fan base to blame an ultimate move not on the Rams but on the CVC, the CVC has less cover for looking at the final decision from the arbitration and saying, “No thanks.”
There’s also a chance that the decision to scuttle the two London games came not from the P.R. department but from legal. With three neutral arbitrators soon determining what it will take to make the stadium a first-tier venue, the Rams have now slammed the door on the possibility that the CVC would try to taint (yes, Beavis, I said “taint”) the panel by arguing that the Rams are lobbying for renovations so extensive and expensive in the hopes of a ruling that the CVC will be unable to accept, which then will open the door for a move to Los Angeles. Or to London. Or to anywhere but St. Louis.
We don’t expect Demoff to admit that there’s a strategy more intricate than “the timing was wrong,” especially since Demoff and the rest of the organization are smart enough to have realized that “the timing was wrong” before deciding to play one home game per year in London for each of what could be the final three years of the team’s lease.
The Rams and the CVC currently are playing high-stakes poker at the highest level of pro sports. When it comes to Monday’s announcement, there’s got to be something more than something that was obvious before the decision to play three home games in London was made.