No one in Buffalo wants to think about the possibility that their beloved team will one day be known as the Los Angeles Bills or the London Bills. But some in Buffalo see that as a real possibility.
In a column for the Buffalo News, Donn Esmonde writes that once the estate of the late owner Ralph Wilson sells the team, “the Bills’ future in Buffalo will likely not extend past the 2022 expiration of the 10-year lease.”
The reason, of course, is money — which other cities have more of than Buffalo. The column notes that Buffalo has zero Fortune 500 companies and nowhere near the buying power of Los Angeles, and quotes analysts who say Buffalo’s long-term chances of supporting an NFL franchise are not great.
“It’s not just corporations buying luxury boxes, you have private citizens who can afford them [in Los Angeles],” said Ted Fay, a sports management professor at SUNY Cortland in Upstate New York. “They don’t even sell seat licenses at The Ralph.”
We won’t know much of anything about the Bills’ future until we know the identity of the next Bills’ owner. Fans who want to see the team stay in Buffalo will hope the next owner is someone with ties to the community, or at least a football fan who has sentimental feelings about keeping the Bills in Buffalo.
But if the next owner is simply a businessman who wants to maximize the team’s earning potential, there’s a strong case to be made that the franchise can earn a lot more elsewhere.