The San Diego Chargers' and Oakland Raiders' hopes of building a new, shared stadium in Los Angeles got a boost Tuesday when Bob Iger, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, said he would spearhead the effort.
Meanwhile, a third National Football League team, the St. Louis Rams, is also angling to move to Los Angeles, a city that hasn't had an NFL team since the Rams left in 1995.
Since then, Los Angeles has been useful to the NFL as a bargaining chip when a team somewhere else wants a new stadium and threatens to relocate there.
“However, over time it becomes problematic from the standpoint of optics that you’re using the second-largest city in the country as a leverage point,” said Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist. “And there's been a lot of pressure on the NFL to bring a team back to Los Angeles for that reason.”
Zimbalist said one reason the NFL has managed to do without a team in Los Angeles is the rise of fantasy sports betting, where fans assemble fantasy teams with players from several different real teams. He said that can lessen the importance of an NFL team in any one city.
Artist's rendering of a Los Angeles-based stadium. (Courtesy MANICA Architecture)
“They get lots of interest from people in Los Angeles even though there isn't a team in Los Angeles,” he said.
But Zimbalist said the NFL could benefit from a return to the Los Angeles market in several ways. It can potentially exact hundreds of millions of dollars in relocation fees from any team that moves there. And Zimbalist said games there could generate more luxury box sales and bigger sponsorship deals.
The NFL also stands to make inroads in Los Angeles with a target demographic.
“It is the number one Hispanic media market in the country,” said E.J. Narcise with Team Services, LLC, a sports marketing consulting firm.
Narcise said even if Latinos aren't football fans today, they can be converted.
“Their parents may be soccer fans, but the kids who want desperately to become part of this culture have rapidly become NFL fans,” he said.
The league is expected to decide on a team for Los Angeles at its winter meeting, after the Super Bowl.