The NFL Rules of Relocation

The NFL relocation processNFL relocation

For a number of NFL teams Los Angeles is beckoning, but only one – maybe two – of the three franchises with their sights set on the City of Angels will be able to move there. For whichever team or teams do end up settling in Los Angeles, the NFL’s relocation policies await. 

The beginning of the year is when teams are allowed to apply for relocation – which, for the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers means between Jan. 1, 2016 and Feb. 15, 2016. The latter two have announced plans for joint occupation of a stadium in Carson. The Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, meanwhile, has plans to build a stadium in Inglewood. For the time being it seems, all three intend to take advantage of that window. 

Rules regarding a team’s intention of relocation 

A team cannot give a single market – in this case Los Angeles – exclusive negotiation rights and must work to maintain good community relations and a workable stadium in its current market, even if it has its eye on another, according to the league’s relocation rules. The NFL places heavy importance on consistent good relations with franchises’ communities.

When a club decides that it intends to transfer markets, and chooses one, it must submit a proposal to the league. In addition to a written proposal to the commissioner with the intended date of transfer, the team is also required to publish a notice in the newspaper for the incumbent market. The notice should also include reasons for the proposed transfer, and will be circulated among government and business representatives within the market. 

The commissioner, as well as appropriate league committees, will then review the proposal. Afterwards, the league will hold a public hearing on the proposal, in which interested parties can submit oral or written commentary. The commissioner will then put together a report on the franchise’s intention to move, and the decision will be voted on by the league. The vote will require the approval of three-quarters of the league’s member clubs.

Factors considered in a relocation vote

The teams that vote on a proposed relocation may consider a number of factors including:

  • Whether the relocation is beneficial to business across the league.
  • How the club has represented the NFL and served fans in its current community.
  • The team’s financial performance.
  • Whether another franchise exists in the destination market.
  • The effect on scheduling, travel, divisions, rivalries and perception of the league and its teams.
  • The degree to which owners and managers played a role in bringing about circumstances that may require relocation.

For more information on the NFL’s relocation process and policies speak with a sports law attorney. 

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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