Chargers: Why they won’t move to London
Due to the opposing fan crowds and lack of inroads in the “Fight for LA”, rumors and reports have swirled about the Los Angeles Chargers potentially relocating to London. While it sounds reasonable in theory, it still doesn’t feel accurate.
The Athletic’s Vincent Bonsignore dropped a report on Monday night that said that NFL officials have discussed the possibility of the Chargers relocating to London. Bonsignore claims that the team, primarily owner Dean Spanos, would listen if offered a potential move to London by the league.
Why would the Chargers move from Los Angeles to London hypothetically? Well, everyone knows the fan response in L.A. hasn’t quite been what the league and organization expected. Packers fans flooded Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday, and the last two years haven’t been kind to the Chargers in building a fan base yet.
Rumors are also swirling because the team is set to move into SoFi Stadium with the Los Angeles Rams next year. London also wants a team and does have a decent NFL following there, with a handful of league games now taking place in London every year.
However, on Tuesday morning, Spanos steadfastly denied Bonsignore’s report, in no uncertain terms (and colorful language):
Chargers owner Dean Spanos on his team potentially moving to London: “It’s total f—kin bullshit. We’re not going to London. We’re not going anywhere. We’re playing in Los Angeles. This is our home, and this is where we are planning to be for a long f—king time. Period.”
— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) November 5, 2019
A few hours after that, the Chargers also denied the London report publicly on social media, with a little help from Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort:
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) November 5, 2019
From the Chargers’ end, it’s full-on denial. In addition, prominent voices and powers in the league have made their voices heard on the issue, like the NFL releasing a statement as well as Jerry Jones. Bottom line: regardless of Bonsignore’s report of the London Chargers being an idea that has been discussed, it’s not happening anytime soon.
First, there’s the lease the Chargers have on the new stadium with the Rams. The 20-year lease on the brand new SoFi stadium makes it tough for the Chargers to leave. The organization made it so the L.A. move would be at least 20 years because of the long term gamble.
Sure, the first two years don’t look great from a fan perspective. But the plan has been from day one trying to build a fan base over time, as there was no way the city would embrace the Chargers, who had been in San Diego for 55 years, from day one.
Are there ways to break the lease? Sure. However, Stan Kroenke isn’t letting the Chargers leave unless he would get significant compensation, as he was promised a lot from the organization.
Everything from evaluations to naming rights to advertising hinges on the Chargers being there, as it was designed that way. The Spanos family is already paying $650 million over the next 10 years from the relocation fee from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Unless other owners would be willing to pony up all that money to pay Kroenke and attempt a force-out, it isn’t happening. And as said earlier with Jones, no owners want the Chargers relocated at this time.
The logistics of the move also don’t make much sense. The league has seen support for three London games for a few years, but what’s going to happen if it goes up to eight games based around one team when London is already scattered with NFL fans of other teams?
It’s not really predictable that fans will immediately gravitate toward the London Chargers, which brings us right back to square one with the problems being the lack of home team fans in the stands in Los Angeles. Sure, there’s a chance London supports the team there, but what happens if it’s not quite what the league expects after 2.5 years and opposing fan bases take over the stadium.
That’s just the logistics just from the standpoint of fans, before even touching on relocating tons of players, staff, and coaches to a foreign country they have never been in, or how the travel will work for opposing teams.
Free agents being hard to attract is another issue, as well as drafted players potentially trying to avoid going there. The league really wants a team in London eventually, but the logistics have to be worked out first, and they’re not going to be worked out before the Chargers move in with the Rams next year.
One thing that’s also touched on in Bonsignore’s story of a potential move to London is that the divisions would have to be reformatted. Do the Chargers move to the AFC or NFC East to make travel easier and leave the AFC West entirely?
Also, another team or teams would have to shift divisions in the whole shuffle. Is it really worth it to shift divisions and the whole NFL landscape for something that may not be viable? I’m not one who thinks that St. Louis would be something the NFL is really considering for the Chargers, but in that option at least the Chargers would be able to stay in the AFC West without much changing.
If there’s going to be a team to move to London, it would be much more likely that it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Chargers. The Jaguars were the beginning of the NFL’s London experiment and have been playing there every year.
Owner Shad Khan also attempted to purchase Wembley Stadium last year. As Mike Florio has noted for ProFootballTalk, the Jaguars have the first right to potentially relocate to London if Khan wants. It also makes sense that it would be Jacksonville as they haven’t moved in the last two years. They don’t have a $650 million dollar relocation fee they have to pay already.
Spanos doesn’t deserve much trust here after he left San Diego the way he did. However, the London report doesn’t really make sense given how the Chargers have been set up in L.A. The league was nearly unanimous in voting for the relocation, and the most powerful owners like Jones and Robert Kraft have stood by the Chargers being in Los Angeles since 2017.
The lease isn’t impossible to break if the Chargers really wanted to relocate, but the amount of money that would be necessary to pay Kroenke and another relocation fee on top of that isn’t really viable.
The fan situation is currently rough at Dignity Health Sports Park and the city in general, but the organization and league approached this as a long-term plan since its inception. Most importantly, the logistics behind London just aren’t there yet, and even if they were, a team like the Jaguars is much more likely to go than the Chargers.