After more than two decades away, the National Football League appears closer than it's ever been to returning to Los Angeles.
Coming off its annual NFL owners meeting this week in Dallas, a special meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 12-13 during which a vote could take place to finally bring pro football back to the country's second-biggest media market. LA has been without a team since 1994, when both the Rams and Raiders left the city for St. Louis and Oakland, respectively.
By next month, the city could find itself with two teams. The Raiders and Rams, along with the San Diego Chargers, are vying for a return to the City of Angels. So, is now the time Los Angeles gets a team to call its own again?
"I think it probably will be," Todd Merriman, strategy director at brand consulting firm Landor Associates, told Adweek. Merriman argues that a number of factors, including a workable stadium plan and a lack of options in the three teams' current markets, should finally bring one or more teams to the city. The league has set a Dec. 28 deadline for the cities of Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis to submit their final plans for keeping their teams, all of which center around getting a new stadium built.
For Los Angeles, there are two separate stadium proposals, one that would have the Rams play in Inglewood with the other, backed jointly by the Chargers and Raiders, for a venue in nearby Carson. Merriman said that since the two proposals require little public money, it gives them a leg up. "There's a financial situation that makes it probably more of a tenable situation now than it has been in the past," he said.
A new stadium in Southern California would immediately become an attractive potential Super Bowl host. Outside of Arizona's University of Phoenix Stadium and the Bay Area's Levi's Stadium (which will host Super Bowl 50 in February), there are few options the NFL deems acceptable on the West Coast.
Some blame the lack of an LA-based team on the perceived apathy among Southern California fans, many of whom are transplanted from other cities. (A popular joke about Dodgers fans is they arrive in the third inning and leave after the seventh.) Merriman, a Los Angeles native, strongly rebuffs that notion, arguing that the city lost its teams two decades ago over stadium issues, the very thing that could bring them back. "There's some sense that the fans aren't as enthusiastic—I don't think that's true," he said.
Not having an LA presence has hardly hindered the NFL's growth. In the 20 years since the league left LA, it has grown into one of the strongest, most bulletproof brands in the country.
"I think the NFL brand is so huge that it's been pretty strong even without a team in one of the biggest markets in the country," said Merriman. That's because the NFL, unlike its pro sports counterparts, is far less dependent on its markets. The Packers, one of the NFL's marquee franchises, plays in Green Bay, Wis., the smallest market in professional sports. Even so, Merriman sees the benefits of being back in LA as too great for even the NFL to ignore.
"Not having a team in one of the largest media markets in the country is a big hole," Merriman said. "It's too big a sports market not to be in."