In the NFL’s game of stadium roulette, which city is the next to get a team?
If more than three teams in 15 months will be getting the green light to move from their current cities, they will need to have a destination. So where’s the next place the NFL will send one of its teams?
The answer depends initially on whether there’s a market that will cough up millions in free money to make it happen. Although fewer and fewer NFL markets are willing to pay huge money to keep a team, there could be more Las Vegases out there, willing to find a way (ideally by avoiding a vote of the citizenry) to legitimize the city bigly by putting it in the big leagues.
Apart from whether cities like St. Louis or San Antonio or San Diego or wherever will find a way to pay the lion’s share of the price to accommodate one of the kings of the sporting world’s jungle, owners who have to buy their own stadiums will be tempted to pay the same price to build them in places where much more money can be made, both on game days and on the other 355 days of the year.
Loyalty sounds good in theory, but it’s a zero-sum game. For every city that loses a team, there’s another city thrilled to get one. The bigger the new city, the bigger the thrill; the smaller the old city, the smaller the outcry.
Then there’s the benefit of having an NFL-ready city, for when multiple teams are ready for a new stadium. The effort to get free money is never easy, but it’s a little easier when there’s a clear-cut “or else” option.
As noted by Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, London looks to be the next “or else” option, regardless of whether the NFL would actually ever move a team there. Indeed, they’ve been talking about moving a team to London for years, possibly in an effort to spur interest in England -- and possibly to prepare for this very moment, where L.A. and Las Vegas are filled and London must be a viable relocation option in order to get new stadiums built with other people’s money.
Still, London won’t be viable unless the Atlantic Ocean can be crossed more quickly, and until the league comes up with a strategy for erasing the disadvantage of playing in England without creating too much of an advantage. Also, if one team will be in London, two teams make even more sense, since it creates a natural rivalry and (if the teams are in the same division) reduces the overseas travel burden for the two teams from eight games to seven.
It’s still a long way off, but it’s coming. Because teams will soon need new stadiums, and if they can’t get someone else to pay for most of it they’ll start looking around for other potential destinations.