NFL Team to say Bye Bye to Oakland
By Gary Jordan
An old cliché says that you wait for something, such as a London bus or taxi cab, and then three arrive in a short space of time. This is a mild comparison to what has happened in the National Football League in recent times.
Nearly twenty years had passed since the Houston Oilers relocated to Memphis and for a short time played as the Tennessee Oilers, before rebranding made them the Titans. Then in 2016 the Rams upped sticks to go "home" to Los Angeles from St. Louis. A few short months later it was confirmed that after 56 years in San Diego the Chargers would clear their lockers and also head to Hollywood.
This past week the third franchise to announce its relocation was finally given approval. The Oakland Raiders, who in the past have been no strangers to seeing the removal vans turn up in its forecourt, had a near unanimous vote that sees them move to the bright lights and casinos of Las Vegas. A move that had been long talked of but for a while seemed a pipedream, as the NFL mulled over the implications of a team in Sin City (AKA "The entertainment capital of the world" - ed).
The Raiders will continue to play in Oakland for the next two seasons, possibly three, as their new stadium is built, then start the 2020 season in its new home.
Owner Mark Davis was a proud man when the owners voted 31-1 in favour of the move, with only Miami showing negative on the voting cards. "My father [Al Davis] used to say that the greatness of the Raiders was in its future. The opportunity to build a world class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world will give us the opportunity to achieve that greatness." He said to reporters after the vote.
At the turn of the year the proposed move looked to be off. Davis was the leader on the deal but needed that extra push. First to help bankroll the plans was casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who pledged $650m for a domed stadium only to pull out when the Raiders made a lease proposal without his consent. Goldman Sachs then withdrew their offer to help and instead it was Davis and his Raiders colleagues that secured help from Bank of America that was equal to what Adelson had tabled. The rest of the money would be raised through public funds, namely a visitor’s tax to the Vegas area.
Mark Davis knew the move would not go down well with the faithful Oakland fans. They’ve had a Super Bowl team taken from them before and the current team is ready for a run at the playoffs again this coming season, so the immediate goal was to "bring a championship to Oakland". It was this feeling that prompted Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf into a last ditch attempt to stop the vote. She had her own plans for the team in a bid to keep them in her city. "We had a fully financed, shovel ready project that was a public-private partnership and we are incredibly disappointed that was not selected."
Schaaf would have seen a new $1.3b stadium complete with facilities for the Oakland Athletics baseball team. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wasn’t completely sold on the idea, "We understand that contingencies sometimes occur but major contingencies that put the entire project in doubt are just unreasonable" he said. He was concerned of the lack of a stated location for a new Oakland stadium, and the knock on effect it could have with the MLB team.
The Raiders have had a somewhat nomadic existence since their acceptance into the old AFL in 1960. They first played in the old Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, then briefly at Candlestick Park. In 1962 they moved to Oakland and were settled there for 20 years before they moved out to Los Angeles. After 13 years they went back to the Coliseum and now the lure of new pastures sees them on the road again.