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Hopes for NFL in L.A. Dwindling

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The Super Bowl has come and gone. The New Orleans Saints victory parade has come and gone, although New Orleans will still be partying for the next week. So what now?

One of the biggest story lines for us in Los Angeles that hasn’t been touched on by the national evil four-letter media is the prospect of getting an NFL franchise here to the second largest media market in the country.

Ed Roski’s Los Angeles Stadium plan has cleared almost every hurdle - every environmental impact report; every NIMBY community groups’ lawsuits; every state legislature vote. According to Majestic Realty Company vice president John Semcken who oversees the project, there is no concern about financing the $800 million stadium.

“We know what the numbers are, and we know how we are going to do it,” Semcken told James Wagner of the Pasadena Star-News.

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To fan the flames of further optimism, the upcoming war over the collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners should further benefit Los Angeles.

Since the likelihood of winning the Mega Millions jackpot is better than an agreement coming together before March 31, the end of the NFL fiscal year, this upcoming final season under the current CBA will have no salary cap. This will give big money teams like the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants free reign to spend as much as they possibly can.

This could in turn spell disaster for smaller market teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars who are already financially strapped.

The Jaguars struggled to fill seats even when division rival and then-undefeated Indianapolis Colts came to town. They had as many as 25,000 empty seats in Jacksonville Municipal Stadium even after entire sections were covered with tarp back in 2005. In addition 17,000 season tickets were not renewed.

The situation in Jacksonville is so bad that owner Wayne Weaver intimated that the Jaguars would draft Florida quarterback and local hero Tim Tebow to fill the stadium. Jaguars offensive lineman Uche Nwaneri was so offended by this he vented on a message board on the team’s official website to enumerate reasons they should not draft Tebow. Despite this list even Nwaneri admitted Tebow could boost the franchise writing, “I don’t want to come out for pregame warmups to a COMPLETELY EMPTY STADIUM ANYMORE.”

So we should be getting an NFL franchise soon right?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell put the kibosh on that in the tersest manner that made it easily overlooked. In his Super Bowl press conference last week in Miami, Goodell couldn’t guarantee a franchise in Los Angeles.

“The key issue is the challenges of financing a facility in this environment with the labor agreement that we have,” Goodell said. “The cost of building that stadium is almost entirely on the ownership and that is a big burden to pay in this type of environment.”

That is a pretty loaded statement. As noted above the financing for building the Los Angeles Stadium is secured, and Goodell knows that. Bringing this issue up means one of two things.

As Sam Farmer reported in the LA Times, the owners want the players contribute more to the cost of stadiums which probably won’t sit well with the players union. With NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith telling reporters that the chance of a lockout in 2011 is a 14 on a scale of one to 10, Goodell is trying to posture to get some leverage for the owners.

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Brooks Melchior of SportsBYBrooks adds that the NFL doesn’t want to cede control of revenues a stadium could generate for a franchise.

The reason the NFL isn’t interested in the current attempt to bring a team to the L.A. area is Roski and Semcken would have a financial interest in the relocated franchise. Or at the very least, serve as landlords of the NFL team. The NFL isn’t going to move a team to L.A. or anywhere else unless the owner of that franchise gets the vast majority of revenue derived from the stadium. In other words, every penny that the team generates, the owner keeps. No partners.

The NFL wants the same one-sided deal it got with new stadiums in Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Houston.

Roski and Semcken have assured Angelinos that there will be an NFL team in Los Angeles by 2012, but based on the rhetoric coming from the NFL it’s looking highly unlikely. In fact it’s starting to look unlikely that the NFL will play in 2012.

"They need Los Angeles more than ever," Industry mayor Dave Perez told Wagner in the Pasadena Star-News piece. "We are the market. And they gotta be here."

Sorry Mayor, but they don’t. The Super Bowl was the most watched television program ever surpassing the series finale of MASH. The owners will stand to be paid $5 billion in the event of a lockout in 2012 thanks to television contracts. In the 15 years since the NFL left Los Angeles, the sport has exponentially increased their revenues.

The NFL clearly doesn’t need Los Angeles aside from a negotiating tool to bully other cities to take on the tax burden to finance stadiums. But as each year passes by, Los Angeles might soon return the sentiment to the NFL.

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