With 31 NFL stadiums and the useful life of each one in the range of 20 to 30 years, it’s safe to say that at any given moment at least one NFL team will be jockeying for a new venue.
Most of them do their jockeying atop a horse named Taxpayer’s Money.
The Rams are among the current crop of franchises that officially are in the jockeying business. Their lease at the Edward Jones Dome, which became effective in 1995, officially has converted to a 20-year contract that, after the 2014 season, continues on a year-to-year basis.
This means that, after the next two seasons and any season thereafter, the Rams can leave St. Louis.
It’s unclear where they would go. It has long been assumed that the Rams would go back to Los Angeles. But the process of finding a suitable location is going nowhere, in part because those who would build a stadium would like to own at least one of the teams that would play there.
Last year, the Rams announced that they would play one home game per year for three straight years in London, in a clear effort to begin building a fan base in England. The Rams reduced that plan to one game after the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission objected.
A permanent move to London now becomes a strong possibility, as does finagling a new stadium elsewhere in the St. Louis area, thanks to the extreme leverage that comes from an expiring lease.
There’s another potential plan, which could be the only way to make a London franchise logistically viable in the short term. The Rams could play some games each year in London, and some in St. Louis. They’d still be the “St. Louis Rams,” and any home playoff games would be played in St. Louis.
Having one or two teams play a split schedule with anywhere from two to four home games played each year in London could be the best way to lay the foundation for the eventual permanent relocation of a team to London. While the logistical challenges would remain, it would be easier to get the average NFL fan to accept the change if it occurs as part of a gradual, inevitable process.
Regardless, the NFL seems to be determined to expand dramatically its current flirtation with London. The Rams are now in position to allow the NFL move things to a new level.