Everyone knew the Chargers moving to Los Angeles was a bad idea, except the Chargers and the NFL, apparently.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham reported that owners have discussed the Chargers’ viability in Los Angeles. This is just the Chargers’ second season in L.A. and it’s already going bad. The team hasn’t been able to sell personal seat licenses. If there’s one surprising part of the report, it’s that the team has already changed its revenue goals for when it moves to Inglewood, from $400 million to about $150 million. That’s a massive cut. NFL business is booming, and the Chargers are planning to settle for less than 40 percent of their expected revenue. They won’t even be moving to the new Inglewood stadium with the Rams until 2020.
The Chargers struggling in Los Angeles is quite predictable, for many reasons. When NFL owners and executives are talking amongst themselves about whether the Chargers can make it in L.A., hopefully they’ll also wonder how the league could have allowed such a bad idea to happen.
Lot of red flags surrounded Chargers move
Every red flag about the move has come to pass. People in Los Angeles weren’t necessarily clamoring for a home NFL team, and then they got two. The Rams had by far the bigger foothold in the city, and a year head start on the Chargers. So the Chargers were moving to a city that didn’t want them, and losing all the San Diego fans that felt jilted. There were no fans for the Chargers in a city that didn’t seem fired up about an NFL team in the first place.
The Chargers were then stuck in a soccer stadium in Carson while they waited for the Inglewood stadium to be built. That Inglewood situation wasn’t the best either: They were always going to be tenants of Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s palace. Opposing fans figured out that they could easily get tickets to Chargers games at the soccer stadium in Carson because, once again, the home team had barely any fans. Opposing fans have flooded the stadium, making every game seem like a Chargers road game. And those fans aren’t paying for personal seat licenses.
It was entirely predictable. It could have been avoided. And now it’s going to be difficult to fix.
What can the Chargers do?
The NFL should have stepped in when Chargers owner Dean Spanos got his feelings hurt that San Diego wouldn’t give him enough public money for a new stadium. It should not have allowed him to relocate in a huff. The Chargers could have taken the relocation fee and the $300 million offered by the NFL toward a new San Diego stadium and made it work. If Spanos played it right, he could have been seen as the savior of NFL football in San Diego. Look at how Paul Allen, who saved the Seahawks in Seattle, has been talked about in NFL circles upon his death this week.
Instead, Spanos was upset voters didn’t give him a fortune to build a new stadium and decided to move to Los Angeles even though it was a really dumb idea. The NFL let it happen, maybe because it was a better option to the league than the Raiders moving in with the Rams. Whatever the reasons behind the scenes, the NFL — one of the most successful businesses in the United States — put one of its 32 franchises in a no-win situation. The league didn’t stop it from happening. It was hard to believe then, and it’s harder to believe now.
The Chargers’ long-term options don’t seem great. They could continue to flail around in Los Angeles, making less than 40 percent of the revenue they hoped as the little brother of a Rams team that is getting a foothold in the market. If they moved, where would they go? There’s no major market clamoring for an NFL team at the moment. St. Louis and San Diego have made it clear they’re not willing to play the publicly-funded stadium game, and it seems foolish to believe San Diego would happily accept the Chargers back after how they left.
The NFL and the Chargers should have seen this all coming, yet they did it anyway. The conversations they’re having about the Chargers’ viability in Los Angeles probably should have been more urgent a couple years ago before they made a pretty big mistake.
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