Vote for Raiders move expected January

NEW YORK — Art Rooney II, the influential Pittsburgh Steelers owner who chairs the NFL’s Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, expects owners to vote in January on a team or teams — the Raiders included — relocating to L.A.

Rooney’s comments came Wednesday after owners discussed L.A. during their fall meeting at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

“There’s nothing for sure right now,” he said. “We need to take the vote and see what the result is. … I think there will be a vote.”

Rooney believes the three teams backing two competing stadium plans in L.A. — the Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams — will all file for relocation.

However, Eric Grubman, the NFL executive vice president who is the point man on L.A., doesn’t think the owners are tied to a January vote.

“There’s nothing that locks us into January,” he said. “There are any number of scenarios that could emerge. … Are we so committed to January that we can’t delay?The answer is no. It’s as early as January and we’ve set it up to enable January. But we’re not committed to January.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell echoed Rooney’s prediction of a vote — which would require 24 of the league’s 32 owners to approve a move — but didn’t provide specifics on how the league would handle a potential stalemate between the rival plans.

The commissioner described the six-member L.A. committee as “very active” and quipped that the league has “almost exhausted them already.”

Goodell said it’s “very positive” to have two alternatives in what he also called “the entertainment capital of the world.”

Neither California team has had success in getting public funding for a new stadium; Goodell noted that has been happening “for decades.” Missouri has come through with a plan for a $1 billion stadium to keep the Rams, but there are delays in that proposal.

The cross-ownership complications of Rams owner Stan Kroenke are over. NFL owners approved Kroenke’s plan, which allows him to retain ownership of the Rams, and transfers ownership of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche to his wife, Ann Walton Kroenke. She is a Wal-Mart heiress who, according to Forbes, is worth an estimated $4.6 billion.

The Nuggets and the Avalanche will be run by the Kroenkes’ son, Josh.

Under league rules, an owner cannot own an NFL team in one city and another pro sports franchise in another NFL city (or potential NFL city, such as Los Angeles). The reason is, the league doesn’t want NFL owners competing with each other for sports/entertainment dollars in the same city.

For those reading tea leaves on the L.A. situation, the fact that Kroenke got the thumbs up is noteworthy because his cross-ownership situation had been viewed as an irritant among some owners. With that behind him, it removes one of the hurdles in his path to a potential relocation to L.A.

One of the significant challenges for the NFL in sorting out the Los Angeles situation is it involves pitting owner against owner, with business partners who normally work in relative harmony backing competing stadium sites in Inglewood and Carson.

The league has gone to great lengths to ensure competition between owners takes place mainly on the field, not for the sports dollar in a given city. Hence, the cross-ownership rules, which preclude someone from owning an NFL team and a different pro sports franchise in another U.S. city.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said the league is going to try to avoid turning the race for L.A. into a popularity contest among those owners considering a move.

“As owners, personal friendships come into play,” Irsay said. “But in business, mistakes are often made if they’re led by emotion. You have to be very thoughtful

“I know each one wants to work it out at home. As owners, if we have to end up sorting it out and voting for two out of the three, that may be how it gets resolved. But hopefully there will be a lot of discussion behind the scenes where it works out that all parties are happy.”

Earlier Wednesday, the owners approved more international games through 2025, including ones in places other than England. Such as quite possibly Mexico, Germany and Canada.

“We think it’s time to expand our international series to other countries and respond to the growing interest in our game not only in the U.K., but elsewhere around the world,” Goodell said.

So an agreement to stage games in the United Kingdom through 2016 not only was extended, but other nations will be considered for international games. Mexico, where one regular-season game was played in 2005 and drew a record attendance of 103,467, is a front-runner for next year.

“That’s our biggest fan base, our most vibrant market,” said Mark Waller, the league’s vice president/international. “It would be a logical place to start.”

The NFL will announce the 2016 international games this fall. Three games are being held at London’s Wembley Stadium this season for the second straight year, and that number could be increased.

Earlier this year, the NFL agreed with English Premier League club Tottenham to play at least two games a season at its new stadium in north London, which is scheduled to open in 2018. That is a 10-year deal.

Now, other locales very much are in play.

“The great news now is that we have the ability to go look at all geographies,” Waller said. “We’d like to see if we can add a game in a new country for 2016. That’s our goal.”

The league also is looking at Toronto and Vancouver, and several cities in Germany have expressed interest in hosting games.

The Pro Bowl also could land in international sites. Brazil has expressed interest in the all-star game, and Waller said Australia, South Africa and Asia also were potential sites, but probably not before early 2018.

Also, Goodell reiterated that the league will continue to vigorously pursue in court reinstating Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for using underinflated footballs in the AFC championship game. Brady had the suspension set aside in federal court last month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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