I got the chance earlier today to talk with NFL Executive vice president Eric Grubman, the point man on stadium development and team presence in Los Angeles.
Needless to say, with the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams all potential candidates to land in Los Angeles, and Rams owner Stan Kroenke announcing he is building a football stadium on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack, Grubman is been a busy man these days.
He was gracious enough to spend of few minutes and shed light on what’s going on with the NFL and Los Angeles and the Rams.
In the short time you’ve been working on Los Angeles, what is your sense of the passion and wherewithal to get the NFL back?
I think Los Angeles has demonstrated over and over that it’s an incredible sports market and an incredible entertainment market. And like I’ve said, it’s a unique market. I’ve been to a lot of different places all over the world in multiple different careers and I’ve looked at them from the standpoint of being in the military, I was in finance and energy and now I’m in sports. I look at Los Angeles and it’s the nexus, it’s the crossroads of celebrity, business and culture. It’s really a very unusual place, and it’s big. It’s a place we should be, if we can do it successfully. I think there was a long period of time where leaders of the community and the political and business realm probably thought that we should have an NFL team but defaulted to we don’t have to do anything to get the NFL or a team to go there.
What’s changed is, business people have expressed enthusiasm, political leadership has expressed enthusiasm and while no one has paved a way for us to walk in and be in Los Angeles, a lot of things that we had a hard time coming together on and proved impossible years ago are starting to jell. And that’s why you see progress being made. I think people have to, at some point, recognize, they can’t control everything. You can’t pick the team, pick the date and pick the site. If they sit back and say we want it to happen and we accept some uncertainty, the chances go up.
Was the league on board with Stan Kroenke’s decision to build a stadium in Inglewood?
We have relocation guidelines and in the case of the Los Angeles market, ownership expressed a preference through an informal vote a couple of years ago with specific guidelines for the Los Angeles market. One of those guidelines was that any club interested in the Los Angeles market, before taking any action – you could think about it, prospect it, look at stadium plans – but before anyone was going to buy a piece of land or tie up something in negotiations they had to keep the league office informed. With that as the standard, I’m very satisfied that Mr. Kroenke met that standard.
I’ve seen some, what I perceive speculation within the press as to what the league’s point of view was or wasn’t, and the happiness factor. For us it was much more of a neutral. Is this in accordance with the procedure and the rules and customs? Yes or no? And the yes was very easy. And so, we were not surprised. He didn’t stretch any rules or procedures, And, as to happiness, that’s in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure some people like the site. Others don’t. That’s not a league view. The league office view is we have a process, it’s a long road, and as long as people keep us informed we’re not going to get emotional about it.
The NFL says it wants its current teams to remain in their current cities, yet one owner is making plans to build a stadium in Los Angeles…
I can’t speak for Mr. Kroenke and the Rams, you should ask them their point of view. My point of view, if I take a step back, is emotions can run high and people can make assumptions around those emotions. And those assumptions may not be right. I don’t know what anyone’s plans are, and I don’t know what anyone’s going to propose until they propose it. Our job is to enhance the chances of putting something together in each of the markets and enhance the chances of putting something together in Los Angeles.
So, that’s like saying to me, I don’ have the ability to do my best in Los Angeles because I’m supposed to do my best in another market. I can assure you that’s not the case. I would like to get a stadium built that’s satisfactory to the market, the club and the fans in all of the markets. Including markets that don’t have a team or might not have a prospect for a team. So there’s no conflict for me. Is there a conflict for an owner? I don’t know. It’s only a conflict if an owner has made up his or her mind and I don’t know that that’s the case.
What do you make of what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said about Stan Kroenke not needing league approval to move to Los Angeles?
I made the mistake once of trying to explain what Jerry might have been talking about (laughing). I won’t make that mistake again. So I’ll refer you to Jerry on whatever he meant.
I’ll just go back to what’s obvious, which is relocation is subject to a vote. When you look at Jerry’s comments I don’t know what he is expressing other than he preferences and his point of view.
I do know the point of view expressed on the floor of league meetings and to me many, many times by many owners, which is this is subject to a vote. And they feel strongly about it.
Sort of a hypothetical, if Club A can decide to go to Los Angeles without a vote then Club B could decide to go to any market including Dallas without a vote. Somehow I don’t think these things can be reconciled. But I will respectfully refer you to Jerry.
What is the process of deciding on a relocation fee should the Rams or anyone else decided to move to Los Angeles?
There’s no formula associated. Relocation fee, what is it meant to compensate for? In this case, an expansion fee is meant to compensate for the dilution of league revenues that instantly occurs. And even though there’s no formula for that, you can at least get your head around that dilution. In this case, Los Angeles is a valuable asset that is a league asset. When it (stops becoming) a league asset and becomes the asset of one or two clubs, that’s the negotiation. I come, at least one of my careers I come from a financial background and I couldn’t tell you there is a knowledged way to do it. I think every situation is different.