They say everything in this world has a price. So with that in mind how much does a football team over a half century of culture,tradition and social identity in an area where the fans treat the team with a cultish following cost?
53 million dollars.
Yesterday, the NFL owners allowed the exodus of one of the most storied franchises in NFL history, the Oakland Raiders, to Las Vegas with an almost unanimous vote of 31-1 amongst the majority owners of the 32 NFL franchises.Why was this votes so lopsided? Whenever a franchise relocates, the NFL charges the franchise a lucrative relocation fee which varies based on the projected amount of revenue the franchise will accrue when relocated.This fee is then distributed equally among the other 31 franchises.All this results to a very big influx of cash for other owners who only need to vote “Yes” for relocation. In the past year, the relocations of the St. Louis Rams and the San Diego Chargers along with the Raiders led to a net gain of 53 Million dollars for all the ownership groups of the NFL. A nice payday for sure for a league experiencing a boom in their revenue.
According to Statista.com , the total revenue of the NFL has skyrocketed from 4.28 Billion dollars in 2001 to 12.16 Billion in 2015 which amounts to mind numbing 184% increase in total profits for a league whose Championship game commercials receive national press. These revenues detail the bigger picture for the NFL, whose main objective is no longer about the fans,or the “love of the game” or even Football. To the NFL and the owners, the league has become first and foremost a business venture where every single move is made to ensure that the revenue keeps increasing at a staggering rate.
By looking at the two cities in which the Raiders are currently associated with, this cash grab mentality comes into full view. According to the US Census, the population of metropolitan Las Vegas in 2016 stood at just over 600,000 people, a significantly higher number than Oakland’s current metro population of 460,000. With Las Vegas holding a higher per capita income by about $10,000 and including the potential for greater marketing opportunities and the trickle down of tourist money which comes from an admittedly more visitor friendly locale than Oakland, the economics of the move are evident. It’s a move in line with the NFL’s vision of trying to appeal to the greatest number of people possible, which, when paired with the Ram’s and Chargers move to Los Angeles with the expansion of London games, demonstrate a despicable future for the league.
This move is merely another chapter to Goodell’s almost blatant disregard for the fans and the players,instead turning his focus on trying to make the most amount of money possible for the owners he represents. No city is safe of its team anymore because as soon as a dispute over public funding for stadiums is brought about,smaller market owners have been emboldened to simply pack up and move without the repercussions of possibly losing money or even popularity. Given the grandiose design of new stadiums and the natural fervor which rises among the new fan bases, moving a franchise has the least amount of risk associated with it then at any point of league history. The owners, with the approval of Goodell are essentially coercing cities into giving up public money in order to build these palaces, which in return hikes the value of the league even greater and chains the city with the burden to ensure a local staple of its identity stays.
While it may seem like the league is at the point where it’s above the law, the NFL will soon reach a point where its leverage will soon slip. The lack of markets which can both support the funding of a new lavish stadium AND has a stable fan base which can serve as a steady source of income is dwindling with the increasing costs of the stadiums. This means these threats of leaving will only last so long until teams no longer have places to relocate to and are forced to pay from their own pockets to fund stadiums.In addition to the lack of sustainable markets, the NFL’s blunders with regards of its handling of the concussion protocol , rampant domestic violence and its inflexibility to allow players to express any sort of celebration or flair in their game coupled with the league’s ever increasing pre-draft process which has some fans fed up with the over analysis of prospects paints an increasing difficult future for the league.
Then again as long as Goodell and the owners are making money, they won’t give a damn until it’s too late.