The Chargers and their chairman, Dean Spanos, have until Jan. 15 to exercise their Los Angeles option, which the franchise was granted by the league when owners approved the relocation of the Rams from St. Louis to the city.
“My sense is that both owners are intent on moving at this point,” a high-ranking official with one NFL team said of Spanos and the Raiders’ Mark Davis. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Davis has said he plans to move his franchise to Las Vegas. But the Raiders cannot formally apply for relocation until after the regular season, and the move would have to be ratified by at least 24 of the 32 NFL team owners.
The league and the owners do not necessarily face a time crunch on the Raiders’ situation, given that Davis’s immediate plan would be to keep the team in Oakland while a new stadium in Las Vegas is built.
The Chargers’ deliberations are more pressing, given the mid-January deadline. Spanos has said a decision will come after the Chargers’ season is completed.
The owners hope to emerge from Wednesday’s meeting with a better grasp of both situations, even if there are no firm public proclamations.
“I suppose we will find out something at this meeting,” the high-ranking team official said.
The owners are expected to discuss the Raiders’ stadium situation and take up a few matters related to the Chargers’ prospective Los Angeles move.
“With the Raiders, there are some moving parts there,” another person with knowledge of the league’s inner workings said. “That will take a while to work itself out. I think there’s some pretty strong sentiment that people would like to see them stay in Oakland. But we have to see if that’s possible. It might not be, and then we’d have to take up the Las Vegas deal. . . . With the Chargers, that’s really up to Dean. That’s really his call and their call.”
The owners in January ratified the Rams’ move from St. Louis to Los Angeles and gave the Chargers their option to join. If that option is not exercised by the Chargers and the Jan. 15 deadline is not extended, the option to join the Rams would pass to the Raiders. The Rams are playing this season in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum while their new stadium in Inglewood, Calif., is under construction.
The owners are to consider two measures Wednesday related to a potential Chargers’ move. One is the Chargers’ lease agreement with the Rams in Inglewood. The other is a debt waiver that would allow the Chargers to finance a portion of a Los Angeles relocation fee.
In neither case, the person with knowledge of the situation said, ratification by the owners would necessitate a Chargers’ move.
But a third person familiar with the deliberations said the owners’ approvals of the Chargers-Rams lease deal and the debt waiver would be important precursors to a potential Chargers’ move.
“There are a couple things that have to happen first,” that person said. “There are still discussions going on. This is a very difficult decision for him [Spanos]. . . . This meeting is important but it’s not determinative. There have to be some I’s dotted and some T’s crossed. [But] I’m not sure we’ll be in a much different place tomorrow than we are today.”
Spanos’s decision could become even more wrenching if the league intervenes by coming up with creative ways to attempt to keep the Chargers in place and retain the NFL’s presence in the San Diego market. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that NFL officials are considering possibilities that include a loan on terms favorable to the team, a league investment in a stadium project in San Diego or a pledge to hold two Super Bowls there in a short span of time.
Voters in San Diego last month rejected a measure to provide public financing for a new stadium there for the Chargers. The measure required a two-thirds approval but was supported by only about 43 percent of the voters. The defeat left Spanos and the Chargers to sort through options that include moving to Los Angeles or remaining in San Diego and making another attempt to get stadium funding approved, perhaps with a legal challenge to reduce the ratification threshold to 50 percent of the voters.
Four city council members in San Diego reportedly planned to send Spanos a letter Tuesday offering Spanos a lease for $1 per year for 99 years at the site of Qualcomm Stadium to renew negotiations on a new stadium. Copies of the letter were to be sent to the owners and to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to the Associated Press. There also has been speculation about the possibility of the team exploring possible stadium options in San Diego County outside the city.
Davis repeatedly has said he is committed to taking his team to Las Vegas, where funding for a new stadium for the team has been approved. But there are potential issues with ratification by the owners, given the apparent concerns by some owners about the size of the Las Vegas market and the involvement of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in the deal.
Oakland is making its pitch to keep the team, crafting terms of a prospective new-stadium deal with a group of investors and developers that includes Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. But city leaders have not been dealing directly with Davis and the Raiders. League and team officials reportedly met Monday with representatives of the city and the development group, and the city council was to consider the stadium-proposal terms Tuesday.
It’s not clear if the stadium deliberations in Oakland will influence Davis, who has said he is focused solely on the planned move to Vegas. But those deliberations could affect sentiment among the other owners who must ratify the move. Goodell has said the league’s preference is to see the Raiders remain in Oakland if possible.