If Roger Goodell is looking to start a fight with the city of St. Louis, it certainly appears that the city of St. Louis is eager to respond in kind. The NFL's recent announcement that the Rams would play one "home game" in London in each of the next three seasons was certainly another peg in the Commissioner's global outreach program.
However, Goodell must have also known that a city that is currently being asked to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome or risk breaking a lease that ostensibly goes through 2025, would not be happy about losing a game in each of those years.
On Friday, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission released a statement which said that by playing a game in Wembley Stadium in 2012, 2013, and 2014, the Rams are the ones violating the terms of the lease. According to STLToday.com, the lease says that the franchise is obligated "to play all its home NFL Games (other than pre-season NFL Games) at the Facilities."
That condition can only be broken if the stadium is in a state of disrepair, or if the lease is terminated.
The Rams' response to this claim was disingenuous, to say the least:
We think that playing in London is great for the Rams and great for St. Louis. We are in talks with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which is also the region's chief marketing group, about how to make the most of this opportunity. As the CVC said today, this will 'elevate an awareness of St. Louis on the global stage.' We look forward to having amicable and meaningful dialogue with the CVC on many issues and believe those conversations should remain between the parties.
So … playing in London, and denying the city the revenue gained from a home game, is a good thing? Alrighty then! More likely, it's a good thing for the Rams, who are guaranteed a larger slice of the pie in the London game as the "home" team — those franchises who choose to play in Goodell's ongoing Britcoms are guaranteed revenue equivalent to a sellout, plus expenses.
This could be yet another example of Goodell's ready-fire-aim thinking, in which he hands down edicts without considering the consequences. It's also possible that the league is looking to add suitable tension to the ongoing negotiations between the Rams and the CVC to freshen up the Edwards Jones Dome and make it a "top-tier facility."
If the Dome doesn't meet those nebulous standards by 2015, the Rams cam break their current lease and move wherever they'd like. And it just so happens that the NFL has a bunch of new TV deals kicking in for the 2014 season, a stadium project going forward in Los Angeles, and a need for a team to fill that stadium in America's second-largest media market.
It's not too hard to connect the dots. Goodell is one of those people who shows all his cards when he thinks he's being secretive, and this tactic is about as subtle as a Chris Long quarterback sack. Will the CVC be willing to spend millions to upgrade the Dome if they feel that the Rams are cheating the lease?
As the Brits would say, not bloody likely.
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