“If you want me to say it again, I’ll say it again,” he continued. “[Expletive] [expletive], that story.”
The Chargers moved to Los Angeles in 2017, after spending 56 years in San Diego. The team has been playing in a 27,000-seat facility in Los Angeles County designed for Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy, as it waits to move into a stadium still being built that it will begin sharing with the Rams in 2020.
The Rams, who played in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1994, moved back there from St. Louis in 2016 and were able to draw upon a re-energized fan base. By contrast, the Chargers were long viewed with antipathy in Los Angeles by virtue both of their association with San Diego and as a divisional rival of the Oakland Raiders, who played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, and Spanos’s club has had difficulty developing an avid following in its new home.
In the report, published Monday by The Athletic, NFL sources were cited as saying that league officials have had discussions about possibly moving the Chargers to London. The website described the Chargers as “fully committed to Los Angeles” but claimed the team “would at least listen” if the league “approached” it about relocating to the United Kingdom.
In addition, The Athletic reported that it learned other NFL owners are “concerned enough” about the difficulties Spanos has had making headway in the “crowded” Los Angeles market that the league “would provide the necessary support” for a transatlantic move, if the Chargers were on board.
On Tuesday, the NFL said there was “no substance whatsoever” to The Athletic’s report.
“No consideration has been given to the Chargers playing anywhere other than Los Angeles at the new stadium in Hollywood Park next season and beyond,” the league said in a statement. “There have been no discussions of any kind between the NFL and the Chargers regarding moving to London. Both our office and the Chargers are entirely focused on the success of the team in Los Angeles.”
The Chargers’ struggles in developing a Los Angeles fan base have been evident in many of the team’s home games at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. Opposing teams regularly bask in cheers from thousands of their own fans, who take advantage of both the attractive locale for a road trip and the apparently ready availability of tickets.
Meanwhile, the Chargers have reportedly been having trouble holding up their end of the bargain with the Rams in terms of helping finance the new stadium through the sale of personal seat licenses. The Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, is a real estate developer who is organizing the construction of the stadium, and the Chargers will effectively be his tenants.
ESPN reported last year that the Chargers dropped their initial goal in revenue from such sales to $150 million, from $400 million, and it also reported at that time that NFL officials were already discussing the “viability” of the Chargers in Los Angeles. Forbes reported last month that the Chargers were “currently $300 million short” of the $400 million projection.
The NFL has steadily been increasing its toehold in the U.K. market, as it has staged regular season games in London every year since 2007. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which opened in London this year, was designed to accommodate NFL games and was mentioned by The Athletic as a likely venue for the Chargers, if they were to move.
An unidentified NFL official described as “high-ranking” told the website that “all” of the other NFL owners are concerned about the Chargers’ current situation, and the team likely “would get [support]” for a relocation.
However, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on a Dallas sports-radio station Tuesday that a Chargers move to London was not a “viable option,” adding that they were “committed to their future in Los Angeles and are going to be in a fabulous stadium.”
Pro Football Talk reported in 2018, via a source with knowledge of the situation, that the Chargers were contractually bound to “a firm 20-year lease” at the stadium being built by Kroenke. The team also reportedly has a pair of exclusive 10-year options to extend the lease.
For any NFL team possibly moving to London, the league would have to work through a host of issues related to the logistics of having a club so far from all the others, and in a foreign country. If the Chargers were to move, they would almost certainly have to leave the AFC West and decades-long rivalries with the Raiders, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. That in turn would likely set in motion a greater divisional realignment to which other teams would have to agree.
For their part, the Raiders were reported last year to be considering London as “an option” for their 2019 home games. At that time, they had committed to moving to Las Vegas in 2020 and were uncertain of being able to remain in Oakland in the interim.
The NFL team most frequently linked to a possible London move has been the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have played a regular season game in that city every year since 2013 and whose owner, Shad Khan, also owns a soccer team in England. At a Jaguars event in April, Khan said Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field, at which his team has a lease until 2030, “has to be upgraded.”
“We are fully committed and focused on Los Angeles,” Spanos was quoted by The Athletic as saying recently, “and look forward to continuing to build our fan base as we transition to our new stadium. We’re seeing progress every day, and we look forward to building on that.”