NFL owners have turned their attention to the prospect of one or two teams returning to the Los Angeles market, but the current sense of urgency is no guarantee a decision will be made any time soon.
Although league executives recently said mid-January was a realistic target date for an L.A. vote, some owners have indicated that decision could drift into February or March. The timing is critical, because whatever team or teams are given the green light to relocate for the 2016 season would need time to set up and sell tickets in the new market.
“I don’t think [January is] necessarily a hard-and-fast deadline,” said Kansas City’s Clark Hunt, a member of the six-owner L.A. committee. “It’s certainly a possibility that we’ll take a vote in January, but it doesn’t have to be January. I do think there’s a point in the year when it becomes difficult to make the decision. I don’t want to say March is too late because that might work as well. It’s very fluid.”
The Raiders, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers are angling to move to L.A., the nation’s second-largest market, which has been without an NFL team since 1995. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is proposing a stadium in Inglewood, whereas Raiders owner Mark Davis and Chargers owner Dean Spanos are backing a concept in Carson.
If 49ers owner Jed York has a preferred site/team combination, he’s not disclosing it publicly.
“Both are very exciting projects,” he said. “Both have pros and cons. I’m more focused on, what are the existing home markets doing? That’s where my priority is, and the league’s priority is.”
To that end, York said, the league needs to take its time, as opposed to risking a bad decision by rushing.
“It’s important that we go through all the diligence to make sure that all the home markets have the opportunity to put their best foot forward,” he said. “And if we can’t make a decision right away, we need to take our time and make sure that the home markets are given every opportunity to do what they can to keep a team. If they don’t, then you have to relocate.”
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, a member of the L.A. committee, said that he supports the Carson project. That was well-known in league circles, but it was surprising he would say so publicly.