The NFL's ability to fleece taxpayers is over
In the 21 years L.A. was without a professional football team, 22 new stadiums were built for 23 teams, with an average of $250 million apiece of taxpayer money for those stadiums.
It was a massive public subsidy for the billionaire team owners, that generated little or no public good.
But those days are over now.
For that you can thank the hapless Chargers franchise, now in it's third season in Los Angeles.
The Sunday night debacle against the 1-4 Steelers, who were starting their 3rd-string quarterback was bad enough, but the real story of the night wasn't on the football field.
Looks like the entire stadium was Steelers fans or at least the Steelers side was full while the Chargers side looked pretty bare.. pic.twitter.com/dFQw6eVpPY
— zakary wright (@zwright81) October 14, 2019
- Lowest rated SNF game of the year so far.
- Ratings in the Los Angeles market were LOWER than the national average.
- Ratings in the San Diego market were nearly double what it did in L.A.#NBC7SportsWrap
— Derek Togerson (@DerekNBCSD) October 14, 2019
Check out this picture. How many Chargers jerseys do you see in the stands?
Remember, this was a Chargers home game.
This game wasn't an exception. Opposing fans typically take over the stands for a very simple reason - the Chargers have no fans in Los Angeles.
t’s a bad look, but it’s one the NFL created by looking the other way for more than two decades when it came to the Los Angeles market. It’s not an indictment on Los Angeles as an NFL city but rather an indictment on the NFL’s failure to understand Los Angeles.
Diehard fans who are going to pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket and thousands of dollars for a seat license aren’t created overnight. That type of loyalty and fandom is built over generations, and the NFL robbed this city of a team for an entire generation. It would be foolish for the league to think it could make up for that in a couple years.
It doesn't help that the Chargers have never won anything.
But speaking of "Diehard fans" willing to "pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket and thousands of dollars for a seat license", that's where the rubber hits the road.
This was the story last year.
A major discussion topic among NFL owners/executives at this week’s league meetings is the Chargers’ viability in LA. PSL sales have been a struggle and team is expected to revise its Inglewood revenue goals sharply to a more realistic number: $400m to around $150m, per sources
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) October 17, 2018
NBC 7 spoke with a former San Diego Chargers executive, who called the move to Los Angeles “a bad decision from the word go.” The executive did not stay with the team when it moved to Los Angeles.
Viability is the important word.
The other team owners hoped the fans would come when the Chargers started winning, and they did have a 12-4 season last year.
But the fans still weren't turning up even before Sunday's debacle.
Things have gone from bad to worse in the past year.
To help finance SoFi Stadium, the Chargers, who will be co-tenants with the Los Angeles Rams, are expected to kick in $400 million from the sale of personal seat licenses. PSLs give their owners the right to buy season tickets. But the Chargers are reportedly currently $300 million short of that projection.
...Based on the formula, the Chargers will make up their end of the difference from their share of stadium revenue.
If the Chargers’ PSL sales fall dramatically short, the Rams will help cover part of the cost, but the Chargers will still be on the hook for the vast majority.
Translated: The NFL Chargers franchise will be losing money for the foreseeable future.
It's been a very long time since that happened.
Plus, what big-named free agent is going to want to play for a team with no fans?
So the Chargers will have difficulty hanging onto talent, and winning.
And the hits keep coming.
Multiple sources confirm there is friction in the #Rams #Chargers Inglewood Stadium relationship and the Chargers may not be pulling their share. This is a serious issue. The story Monday at noon @AM570LASports
— Fred Roggin (@FredNBCLA) September 22, 2019
OK. So the Chargers are flailing. Big deal.
Why should that matter to anyone else?
Because the Chargers are failing in Los Angeles.
If you don't catch the significance, allow me to remind you that Los Angeles was the thing that the NFL used to blackmail cities for decades.
How do you get taxpayers to chip in $500 million on a more than $1 billion stadium when only one city, Indianapolis ($620 million), has ever paid that much. Tell them you’ll move their 54-year-old NFL franchise to Los Angeles.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf did just that and got the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis to go along for the ride...Minneapolis, meanwhile, will end up paying $678 million over its 30-year payment plan once interest, operations and construction costs are factored in.
Even when the NFL doesn't explicitly threaten to move to L.A. it was implied.
Even when the money is "private" it's actually public.
In California, the City of Santa Clara broke ground on a $1.3 billion stadium for the 49ers. Officially, the deal includes $116 million in public funding, with private capital making up the rest. At least, that’s the way the deal was announced. A new government entity, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, is borrowing $950 million, largely from a consortium led by Goldman Sachs, to provide the majority of the “private” financing. Who are the board members of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority? The members of the Santa Clara City Council. In effect, the city of Santa Clara is providing most of the “private” funding. Should something go wrong, taxpayers will likely take the hit.
It was a good gig while it lasted, but then the Chargers had to go and test the theory that any team could just up and move to L.A. and succeed, if their city didn't bankrupt themselves building a stadium.
However, now that the Chargers have flopped in L.A. the spell is broken.
The next time a team threatens to move, the city can remind them that they could wind up like that unloved team in southern California.
The Chargers’ long-term options don’t seem great. They could continue to flail around in Los Angeles, making less than 40 percent of the revenue they hoped as the little brother of a Rams team that is getting a foothold in the market. If they moved, where would they go? There’s no major market clamoring for an NFL team at the moment. St. Louis and San Diego have made it clear they’re not willing to play the publicly-funded stadium game, and it seems foolish to believe San Diego would happily accept the Chargers back after how they left.
The NFL and the Chargers should have seen this all coming, yet they did it anyway.
In a couple years the Raiders will likely be in a similar situation. The Raiders have no natural fan base in Las Vegas, where five teams are more popular than the Raiders (even the Chargers are more popular in Vegas).
A long-time grift just ended, but no one seems to have noticed.