If the NFL returns to Los Angeles, it’ll be the NFL returning to Los Angeles. Even though it will be an NFL team that returns to Los Angeles.
According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, the league reiterated to all 32 teams in an October memo that the league owns the market, and that the league will decide if/when a team can move there.
The NFL also explained, per Kaplan, that a team buying real estate in L.A., ostensibly for a new stadium, wouldn’t keep the league from doing its own stadium deal. Kaplan writes that there are some concerns that a team may try to squat on the L.A. market by purchasing the land.
Kaplan mentions that teams like the Raiders and Rams will soon see their stadium leases expire. It’s possible, if not likely, that the league fears that Raiders owner Mark Davis would try to swing a deal to return to L.A. without league involvement or approval — especially since the Raiders once believed (and possibly still believe) that they have special rights to the market they vacated after the 1994 season.
In 1996, the Seahawks tried to move to Los Angeles, in defiance of the league. And the Seahawks failed.
Apart from the league’s desire to apply a coordinated negotiated approach that maximizes the revenue and other benefits of an L.A. deal, the NFL also will want to impose a significant relocation fee on the team that moves. The value of the franchise that enters the Los Angeles market will skyrocket — and the owners of the other franchises will want to siphon off a slice of it.
There’s also a chance that the memo wasn’t really aimed at preventing a team from going rogue, but at signaling to the powers-that-be in L.A. that a deal can happen if/when someone is willing to do the kind of deal the NFL likes.
In other words, the NFL makes a ton of money and the “partner” either loses money or doesn’t make much of it in order to be in business with the NFL.