Sports

NFL owners set special meeting on L.A. and deadline for three home markets

After months of fits and starts, there are strong indications the NFL is moving toward a solution in Los Angeles.

At their annual December meeting Wednesday, league owners scheduled a special meeting for next month in Houston in hopes of resolving the two-decade vacancy in the nation’s second-largest market. The St. Louis Rams are proposing a stadium in Inglewood, while the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are backing a competing plan in Carson.

The NFL has set a Dec. 28 deadline for the three home markets — St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland — to make their best and final offers. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league wants “certainty” from those markets.

“Certainty means no further votes required, that there are no complications that are unforeseen,” Goodell said. “That this project can be completed. It’s that simple.”

By all appearances, St. Louis is the only market able to meet that deadline. Oakland has no viable plan, and San Diego’s hinges on a public vote that would not take place until later next year.

Asked whether San Diego would not be able to meet the deadline, Goodell said: “Certainly appears that’s the case, yes.”

Even if a city does submit a viable proposal, that does not guarantee a team would be required to stay. That would be one of many factors owners would consider when determining whether a relocation-minded owner had satisfied the league’s guidelines to move a franchise. Any relocation would require a three-quarters majority approval from the 32 NFL owners, both on whether that franchise met the guidelines and for permission to move.

Teams cannot submit relocation applications until Jan. 4. That would provide a condensed window during which owners would evaluate offers from the home markets before the special meetings on Jan. 12-13.

“It is musical chairs right now, but that music hasn’t stopped,” said Steve Tisch, co-owner of the New York Giants. “A seat has not been removed.”

The first glimmer of a potential compromise has surfaced. Late last week, Rams owner Stan Kroenke sent a letter to the six-owner Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, saying he would be willing to partner with a second team on the Inglewood stadium. He did not identify a particular team.

“He was willing to propose an equity ownership, 50-50 ownership in the stadium — that they would be equal partners in the stadium,” Goodell said. “I think that was received well by the membership. That’s something they will certainly consider.”

Other owners echoed Goodell’s characterization of the letter, with Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay calling the offer “a positive thing,” and Tisch saying it was “serious” and “sincere.”

The letter called for the Rams and a second team to split construction costs on the $1.86-billion stadium as well as game-day revenue. Kroenke would retain control of the stadium’s design as well as the surrounding mixed-use development.

A Chargers source who spoke on condition of anonymity said team owner Dean Spanos already believes he has the best site and sees no reason to consider changing course.

In the case of L.A., the league would manage the outcome instead of pitting the two projects against each other for an up-or-down vote. The NFL doesn’t want one or two teams to emerge as losers and get sent back to markets they tried to leave.

Currently, each side is believed to have the requisite nine votes to block the competition.

While momentum is building toward a January vote, there are no guarantees in a process that has meandered since the Raiders and Rams left the L.A. market after the 1994 season.

“I don’t guarantee it, but I certainly think that that’s where we’re trying to head to,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of voting in Houston. “I think that’s important since we have the ability to put a team there — or teams — we ought to do it.”

Three of the L.A. Committee members — Giants co-owner John Mara, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair — expressed a desire for a definitive vote in January.

The L.A. Committee has not made a recommendation between the Inglewood and Carson proposals, but Goodell said they intend to.

“The first thing the membership is focused on is, what are the home markets willing to do?” he said. “What are the things they can address to make sure that our teams continue to be successful in their home markets? That’s been a big focus of the committee. We still have more work to do to make sure we understand fully the certainty of those projects and the viability of those projects. That’s a core focus.”

Tisch, a longtime L.A. resident, is not ready to forecast an end to this soap opera.

“I’ve lost all my psychic powers,” he said, “especially regarding this subject.”

sam.farmer@latimes.com

nathan.fenno@latimes.com

ALSO

‘Concussion’ tackles the hot-button issue of brain injuries in the NFL

NFL great Frank Gifford had degenerative brain disease, family announces

NFL scouts evaluate talent at USC and UCLA, but favored player won’t be in game