The biggest sports news today in Los Angeles wasn’t the latest sighting of David Beckham actually in the city, with the team he is contracted to but the announcement of the biggest stadium naming rights deal in US, if not world history. What makes this even more amazing is it’s for a stadium that doesn’t yet exist and the city has no teams to fill it. Still, as Bull Durham was told, “Build it and they will come”.
The new stadium is to be built in the Downtown area of the city, next to the Staples Center, where we were last night to watch the basketball and will be called Farmers Field, taking the name from Farmers Insurance in a, get this, $700m over thirty years if AEG who will own the stadium bring in a new NFL (American Football) team by 2015. If somehow they manage to bring in two teams (as they have in New York) this will rise to a cool $1bn.
It is amazing to think that Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the US, does not have an NFL team to call its own. It used to have two – The Raiders and the Rams. However, as you will know, teams here are franchises and if one owner decides he wants out, the franchise is essentially returned to the league and then they will sell the rights to run the team to someone new. all fine and dandy if the new owner is a fan and wants to keep the team in the city such as the Dallas Cowboys, but if they are based elsewhere then the team will not only be uprooted by also renamed. This was the fate that befell the city in 1984 when the Raiders were sold to a franchise in Oakland and the Rams headed east to St Louis.
“This groundbreaking agreement with Farmers not only makes this the largest long- term commitment in naming rights history, it also signals the most significant step forward in creating the football stadium and event center and bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles,” said Timothy J. Leiweke in a statement. Leiweke is the President & Chief Executive Officer of AEG.
So now the shoe may be on the other foot as the city is openly courting a number of existing franchise owners. The two favourites seem to be the Raiders again as well as San Diego’s Chargers from just down the road. The reason? No state currently has four franchises and so awarding LA one such as the Detroit Lions would mean it reached this level (Raiders, Chargers and San Francisco 49’s) so it is more likely that one of the former teams will move back to the City of Angels. When will it all be decided? Who knows but I doubt it will be in time for the start of the 2011/12 season.
So the shoe is on the other foot here. Attract a team to the area then build a stadium and not vice verca as we are seeing with the Olympic Stadium farce. Perhaps two certain football club owners should look Stateside for their next big idea, egos and fan disappointment is all part of the mix over here.