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Are the Chargers in the pole position to move to L.A.?

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At this point in time, it's safe to assume that one NFL team will move to Los Angeles in the next few years — it's just a matter of which team, and when. As reported by Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 on Wednesday to approve the framework for a privately funded downtown football stadium in conjunction with the AEG corporation. Progress on that funding is now contingent on an NFL team moving to Los Angeles. And it will be an NFL team moving to L.A. — the league is not going to expand and provide a new team for that market.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, also a member of the NFL's stadium committee, was understandably happy about this step in the process. "I'm very encouraged," he told Farmer. "It's a compliment to the NFL. It's a compliment to the potential franchise that comes to the city. It's a compliment to the principals there."

And according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the stadium lease situations in Jacksonville, St. Louis and Minnesota — three franchises that have been tied to potential moves in recent years -- are too restrictive for a more. However, lease agreements for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are not as restrictive — Schefter reports that those two teams should be watched as the two most intriguing potential dance partners.

Of course, the interesting thing about both of those teams is that neither one would be moving to L.A. — they'd be moving back. Most people know that the Raiders played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1982 through 1994, but if you take out your American Football League history textbooks, you'll note that the Chargers actually began their existence in Los Angeles, moving to San Diego after the 1960 season.

And as we recently passed along, a story in the Orange County Register detailed a proposal by AEG president Tim Leiweke (the brother of former Seattle Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke) to pay the ransom it would take for a team to get out of its current lease. Leiweke specifically mentioned the $24 million it would apparently cost the Chargers to get out of their current lease with Qualcom Stadium.

In his article, Farmer put it even more succinctly. "Insiders say the [Spanos] family [who owns the Chargers] and [AEG owner Philip] Anschutz are far apart on how much of the team he should own, and how much he should pay. He's looking for a deep discount, and Chargers President Dean Spanos isn't likely to go for that, no matter how dazzling the L.A. stadium might be … that price disagreement would have to be pretty bad for Anschutz to spend $45 million on an environmental impact report and plans for a stadium, training center and Pico Hall, and then walk away at the altar."

In the end, Farmer believes, AEG and the Chargers will come to terms. And given how dialed-in Farmer is, his take should be taken very seriously. There are no timetables or ultimatums just yet, but Chargers fans may want to start thinking about those Sunday commutes north.

Aug 10, 2011 Wednesday

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